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AARP Develops A Tablet for The “Tech-Shy”

2014 October 15

Although about 60 percent of the population between 50 and 65 is technologically savvy, and would rather lose their wallets than their cell phones…

…that leaves a significant number of the 35 million people 50+ who haven’t fully embraced modern communications developments, like tablet technology, to help them stay connected. Although they want to stay in touch with family and friends, browse the Internet, shop online, or read an e-book, they’re apprehensive about navigating the digital world.

Take a 69-year-old-man I know quite well, a stellar trial lawyer who thinks quick on his feet in front of a jury, but completely unravels when he’s holding his tablet and would like to access Showtime. Or a 53-year-old friend, who has never had the pleasure of using Google Docs because she doesn’t know how to set the program up in the first place.

Motivated to help people like this to get over their “technological shyness,” AARP has introduced RealPad, a tablet device powered by an Intel processor with “an easy-to-use software interface to make technology enjoyable and affordable,” according to the press release.

To get further AARP perspective on the relationship between boomers and technology, I interviewed Terry Bradwell, AARP EVP and CIO.

When did the AARP start bringing technology to its constituency?

About 18 months ago, we started a nationwide program called AARP TEK (Technology Education & Knowledge) to provide complimentary hands-on technology workshops, with customized curriculum for those who are apprehensive about using technology. The workshops help attendees learn how to use technology to connect with friends, family, employment opportunities, health information, entertainment, and more. We were blown away and humbled by the interest in the program and touched by the participants’ reactions when they saw what they could do digitally. We quickly realized the need to expand the program and look at other technology partnerships and products we could offer to aid digital literacy. Over 30 percent of the attendees in the program are between 50 and 60, and 70 percent are older, which is in line with Pew data. (Pew Research Center is a nonpartisan fact tank that informs the public about the issues, attitudes and trends shaping America and the world. It conducts public opinion polling, demographic research, media content analysis and other empirical social science research.)

What prevents some older people from being tech savvy?

Today’s technology is very sophisticated and isn’t always warm and welcoming, even for those who’ve had technology experience.

For example, I met a gentleman who retired as an engineer from IBM about 10 years ago, when he was in his early 50s, traveled a great deal but lost touch with today’s technology. Even though he was technologically savvy in his era, and thought the new technology would be easy for him, he discovered the way we think and process information these days has changed and he needed to get across a mental learning curve.

Our attitude towards technology relates to how we’re conditioned. I’ve been in IT for almost 30 years and I remember when we started to move away from green computer screens to point and click. It was amazing to see the amount of discomfort created in the workplace when something called “a mouse” was placed on everyone’s desk. It took several years to really adapt to it because we weren’t used to that type of interaction, holding a mouse and then predicting where the cursor was going to go on the screen. It now sounds like an easy, mundane thing, but we had to have mouse-training classes back then. Now we have gesture clicks that the computer recognizes as specific commands, without a lot of process behind them, but you still have to remember and know intuitively where to go for help if you’re stuck.

For those who have been communicating one way for a very long time, and using certain tools, it presents a really steep learning curve when society starts using a brand new way of interfacing and communicating, with new tools.

It has nothing to do with how smart you are or with your lifetime of learning.. You can use the same logic with kids who can pick up new languages much more quickly than an adult who has been using one language for the last four decades. Younger people embrace technology because it’s part of their societal norm, of their daily living.

Why is the RealPad easier to use than other tablets?

Essentially, an amazing, simplified interface is built on top of an Android operating system (dominant in the mobile industry), that doesn’t rely on the user’s intuitive knowledge.

The most common things that you want to do are right there, available for you, and you don’t have to search for them. This includes sharing photos, video chatting, playing games, learning resources and enjoying entertainment.

We also have a feature called Real Quick Fix, (our Beta testers dubbed it One-Click Wonder) for solving common problems, such as a lost WiFi connection or conserving power when your battery is running low and you don’t have access to a plug. One click and you restore your WiFi; another click and you conserve your battery. It eliminates a lot of the frustration trying to figure things out. Even if you have rogue aps that somehow appear on your device, RealPad allows you to easily delete them.

Wrapped on top of that, we have 20 tutorial videos and this halo of 24/7 support that no one else offers for the life of a device. All day, every day, someone will walk you through your problems and stay on the phone as long as needed; there are no maximum call times. Tech enthusiasts have had some really warm and kind words to say about the product. They love the Quick Fix button. We hope a lot of manufacturers will pick up on these kinds of things.

Why haven’t other big-name brands done what you’ve done?

The industry has not paid attention to the tech-shy market, while it continually introduces products for tech-savvy consumers. We have this huge technology market, the best in the world, but it’s failing much of our constituency and we want to plug the gap.

How does someone in her 70s or 80s learn how to use RealPad?

That halo of support I mentioned will guide you through. Plus, we’re rolling out on and offline workshops in 25 major markets during the next two years, which are free to attend whether or not you’re an AARP member. So if you have any kind of ambivalence, challenge or difficulty about technology, we want you to know there is always a resource that wants to and can help you. The workshops are about all the technology of today, about Androids, smart phones and mobile devices. We’re device agnostic. These workshops don’t market any products, but we’ll also have workshops on RealPad and other products.

RealPad also comes with 20 built-in video tutorials to help people who are new to digital technology to learn how to use their tablets quickly and increase their confidence and comfort levels with technology. Tutorials include subjects such as downloading apps, touchscreen basics, accessing and browsing the Internet, and setting up video calling and email accounts.

Where does someone find out the workshop schedule?

You can go to AARPTEK.org.

Besides the workshops, how will you market the RealPad?

AARP members will hear about it through our magazine, bulletins, as well as through other traditional methods, such as TV and radio.

Where is it sold?

The Real Pad is sold exclusively through Wal-Mart across the country and at Sam’s Club; you can also order it at AARPRealPad.org. Even five years ago, technology was nice to have. Today it’s an imperative. Traditional brick and mortar stores are going away. When was the last time you went around the corner to rent a movie? Our content, our services and our shopping are continuing to go digital. Mobility is our future and we don’t want anyone in our constituency to be left behind.

We will continue to look for other opportunities that can fill gaps, if the market isn’t serving the part of the population that we serve. AARP is committed to helping Americans 50+ live their lives to the fullest…

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How To Rewire Your Mind

How To Rewire Your Mind

2014 October 7

How many times have we heard or read this advice from someone who is ill:

Stop and smell the roses,” tell our loved ones how much we care, appreciate every single day, no matter how much it tests your mental endurance? No doubt, we’ve all heard it many times. Yet, how many of us really take the advice to heart, beyond maybe a few hours, a day or even a week? We fall right back into our routines, often getting frustrated, disheartened, depressed, or even downright mad at someone or something. Here are a few scenarios to which we can all relate:

  • Our Time-Warner cable goes out at least once a week, and we are forced to do without the Internet for long periods. We call the customer service number, have to hold on and listen to irritating music for 33 minutes and then get someone who is absolutely useless to help us or explain the problem.
  • We take a few minutes from our hectic day to call a friend just to say “hi” and she moans, “Sorry, but I’m just too busy to talk right now!”
  • We read an article on the Internet about a really dumb subject, like whether Beyoncé and Jay-Z are divorcing, and we write an insulting comment about them.
  • We can’t wait to get back from a vacation or business trip. We get to the airport and the plane is delayed for hours.

Most often, we have absolutely no control to change the situations or people that
are driving us wild.

Still, we can continue to let them raise our blood pressure, elicit our ill will and anger and divert our positive energy from doing something productive—not to mention cause us to waste massive amounts of time—or we can figure out how and where to seek another path.

But how, you ask? You swear you don’t want to think all these unpleasant, jealous, maddening thoughts, but you can’t seem to turn them off. A online community called rewireme.com says you can, and aims to do precisely what its name says: Help us to disconnect the ‘faulty wires’ in our brains that short-circuit to obstruct, inhibit and hinder us, and to connect the wires that can turn on our power to happily move ahead in our lives.

Launched in 2013 by Rose Caiola, a New York City real estate businesswoman, the rewireme.com mission statement says it wants to help us “learn, grow, and transform into our best selves by understanding emotions; making conscious decisions to acknowledge and experience rather than bury our feelings; expressing what we feel and communicating our understanding with one another; sharing our stories and receiving wisdom from one another.”

When we listen to what other people are going through, we can empathize and often see in them what we usually have a hard time seeing in ourselves,
the website says.

“The more we share, the deeper we’ll be able to go—to embrace growth. As we push the boundaries of our comfort zones and challenge ourselves, we’ll find ways to move from like to love, from status quo to passion. It’s exhilarating to conquer our fear of change together.”

I confess that I’m not typically inclined to be a fan of any single person who ‘preaches’ to the masses how he or she will help us to “be healthier, happier, wiser, more balanced” etc., if we will just listen to their expert advice, on anything from aging to eating; intimacy to motherhood. Yet, what I like about rewire.me is how it makes its community part of the whole learning process. Visitors are encouraged to share their stories of “discovery and change”; advice on the site often is based on scientific fact, such as the 11-minute, clever and entertaining video that explores the causes and cures for stress; and engaging activities promise to give us enjoyment while we learn.

So please take a few minutes to tool around rewireme.com and next time the cable company puts you on hold, your plane is endlessly delayed, or the Internet goes down, you’ll let it roll right off your back and move on.

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Meet My New 90-Year-Old “Boyfriend!”

2014 October 1

Meet my new 90-year-old “boyfriend!”

While I was enjoying a pedicure yesterday, a preppy, handsome older man was led to the chair at the other end of the row. Slight, and no more than 5’6″, he had gray-silver hair and was somewhat balding. He was wearing loafers, a polo shirt, and khakis. “Bet I’m the oldest person who has ever been in here,” he declared to the woman preparing his foot bath. “I’m 90.”

Without missing a beat, he asked if anyone knew that Chelsea Clinton just gave birth and whether she had a boy or a girl.

“Who is that man?” I asked Angela, my long-time manicurist. I had a hunch he was someone I wanted to meet. “I think he’s a professor,” she answered, although she doesn’t always get things like this terribly accurate. Turns out, he’s a regular at the salon.

“Davy,” Angela projected, to get the man’s attention across the row of pedicure chairs. “Where do you teach?”

“I don’t teach” he answered. “I run a nonprofit organization that works with public school students in poor communities.”

“What is it called?” I chimed in, this being the perfect opportunity to find out more about “Davy.”

Find out I did. Turns out that “Davy” is David Caplan, vice board chair and dean of City Year New York.

Founded in 1988 by two Harvard Law School roommates, City Year’s mission is to fight the national dropout crisis by bridging the gap in high-poverty communities between the support that students actually need, and what their schools can provide. It invites young Americans, age 17 to 24, to “Give a Year. Change the World.” Those selected for the program agree to do 10 months of national service working full-time as tutors and mentors at high-need public schools. City Year operates from over 20 cities nationally.

Along with thousands of other non-profit organizations, City Year is a member of the AmeriCorps network. As a matter of fact, it was the driving force behind President Bill Clinton’s decision, in 1993, to establish AmeriCorps as a means for Americans to serve the needs of communities in education, the environment, public safety, health and homeland security. David told me the Clinton Foundation is one of City Year’s largest benefactors. Ah, I thought to myself, no wonder he mentioned Chelsea Clinton earlier.

No typical nonagenarian, David told me he goes to work every day, traveling by subway from the upper east side of Manhattan to City Year’s offices downtown. “David’s passion and enthusiasm for the work of City Year go way beyond being a board member. He consistently strives to be a resource to corps members and often makes the time to volunteer alongside them. His outstanding commitment and energy have earned him the title of ‘Dean of City Year New York,’ the organization’s website related.

“My wife Barbara is not thrilled with the fact that I spend 50 hours a week at City Year and get paid $1 a year,” David chuckled. Barbara was a partner for Yankelovich Partners, Inc., (the leading U.S. marketing research and consulting firm), he told me. (When I Googled her later, I learned she’s a prominent expert on consumer trends and one of America’s foremost authorities on the food, retail, fashion, housing and personal care industries.)

Married over 60 years, the Caplans have five children and happen to live directly across the street from me.

A former Navy pilot during World War II, David graduated from Notre Dame and received a graduate degree in marketing from Harvard University. Before starting his community service career in 2003, he was in the garment industry, where he headed up Evan Picone, one of the hottest women’s apparel brands when I was in my twenties and thirties. As a former editor on Women’s Wear Daily, once the “bible” of the apparel business, I knew many of the same people David did, so we did a little reminiscing.

His pedicure complete, David prepared to leave. As we exchanged business cards, I mentioned how fortunate he was to be in such good shape. “I’m scared to death of Alzheimer’s,” I said. “I know,” David responded, a note of melancholy in his voice. “So many of my friends have gotten it, some you’d never expect would.”

“I do have a problem with my eyes,” he went on, “macular degeneration, like my father had. I got it two years ago.” Damaging the retina, the disease took the sight from David’s left eye, and left him with less than 20 percent vision in his right. Still, he doesn’t even use a cane. “I’ve discovered all kinds of little tricks to get around,” he explained, picking up an illuminating device he uses to read.

No doubt a man with his track record would come up with ways to solve problems, I smiled to myself.

“Since we live across the street from each other, perhaps you and your wife can come for lunch,” I said.

“Oh no, never mind my wife. I’ll come alone,” David answered, his eyes looking ever-so-slightly mischievous.

“You’re so handsome at 90. You must have been a devil when you were younger,” I laughed. (What am I saying, I thought, he’s a devil now.)

“I loved talking to you. You’re so much fun,” David responded.

“Why, thank you,” I said, thinking how much fun it is for me to meet inspiring people like David.

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You’ll Be Fed Up In 95 Minutes!

2014 September 10

An alarming documentary I watched last weekend, called Fed Up, prompted me to text my daughter, who has an 18-month old son:

“Don’t ever give Primo any cold cereals or other supermarket foods that have tons of sugar, even if the boxes say low fat or no fat. It’s scary what’s happening with children’s health in America because the food industry is producing such crap.”

I challenge anyone to watch this 95-minute documentary without having a similar reaction. Even if you’re smart enough to keep yourself and your family far, far away from processed foods, you’ll be shocked to learn just how much they’ve contributed to the snowballing childhood obesity epidemic, the likes of which the world has never before seen.

First consider these two ridiculous, well-known facts:

  • American auto companies freely manufacture (and sometimes even surreptitiously sell) defective cars that can kill us
  • American tobacco companies knowingly produce cancer-causing cigarettes

Here’s a third equally ridiculous fact, that isn’t as well known; as a matter of fact, it’s one of America’s best-kept, dirty-little secrets: The mammoth American food companies knowingly make cereals, cookies, frozen breakfasts, lunches and dinners—hundreds of thousands of processed foods—that are creating a “tsunami of sugar” sweeping up our children and putting them at precipitously high risks for developing cancer, stroke, diabetes and heart disease.

And nothing is stopping these companies from continuing this despicable practice

Not Michelle Obama (although she’s tried with her Let’s Move campaign). Not our schools, 80 percent of which have deals with companies, including Coke and Pepsi, to serve junk food and beverages to our children and grandchildren. Not parents, who succumb to the lures of food marketing, on TV, on the internet and around practically every corner they turn. And certainly not our children.

Yep, that’s right. One in five children today is obese, compared to one in 20 in the past. Obesity isn’t just unattractive and sloppy. It leads to chronic illness. Imagine an eight-year-old giving himself insulin shots. You don’t have to imagine. It’s happening. It really is. Once limited to adults, Type 2 diabetes has become a childhood disease.

The amount of added sugar in the 600,000 processed foods currently manufactured in America is horrifying. Sugar isn’t just in cookies and desserts; 80 percent of our processed foods have added sugar. Our kids are becoming sugar addicts. The American Heart Association recommends a daily sugar intake for women of 6 to 9 teaspoons, but our daily intake is actually 41 teaspoons.

If we keep traveling down this sugar-paved road, it’s estimated that 95 percent of all Americans will be obese in the next two decades.

The seeds of the epidemic actually were planted in 1977, after a government committee on nutrition and human needs heard expert testimony that obesity was the #1 form of malnutrition in the US, caused by a diet overly rich in saturated fats, rich in sugar, rich in fatty meats and rich in cholesterol. When the committee report recommended the creation of dietary “goals” for Americans—that we reduce our intake of fat-rich, caloric food—the egg, dairy, beef and sugar associations united, rejected it and demanded a rewrite.

If Americans reduced their intake of fat-rich, caloric food, that would translate into less business, the food industry correctly reasoned. Can’t have that, manufacturers thought, so they started getting creative, and devious: They re-engineered their food with less fat and fewer calories, but began dumping in more sugar to make it taste better. Otherwise, the food would have tasted like cardboard. That’s when the marketing gurus stepped in and designed labels that made bold statements, such as: “Now with half the fat and one-third fewer calories.” What the labels didn’t say was that the re-engineered food contained twice the sugar. The upshot? Americans doubled their daily intake of sugar from 1977 to 2000.

Remember when the heads of the tobacco companies “lied through their teeth” about the dangers of smoking, the film asks? Everyone watching the lineup of tobacco execs seated before Congress knew they were calculating clowns, but we let them get away with it. Until we didn’t. And when the government, media and the public finally took on the tobacco companies, in the mid 90s, changes were swift and effective. Smoking ads were banned on TV; smoking was banned in planes, in the workplace, in restaurants. Labels on cigarette packs were honest. The fact is, we should ban smoking entirely, but the tobacco lobby is too strong, so we’re settling for second best. The good news is that half as many high school students are smoking now than they did 20 years ago.

Well, my dear FOFriends, the documentary claims that the food companies have been lying through their teeth for the last 30 plus years about the damage that sugar is causing to the health and well being of our children. And we will have to “demonize the food industry, like we demonized the tobacco industry,” if we are going to cure obesity, the documentary emphatically states.

I’m ready. Are you?

Here are 19 other crucial facts and statistics I gleaned from Fed Up about the obesity epidemic and the effect of sugar on our children’s (and, of course, our) health.


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