I often hear the cry from those who are about to retire or from those who've already made the leap...."I cannot be bothered with computers!!" and when asked during a recent radio interview what I think of that stance, my response was largely that its simply too easy for older people to dismiss computers as something for the younger generation.
The reality is that personal computers (PCs) can be a really beneficial tool for us in retirement - no longer a business tool that so many of us learnt to use in the later stages of our careers. They weren't even invented when we started work and indeed only came into commercial use in the 1980s but unless you had a sedentary job, you may not even have gotten to use one at work. If this was your lot, then your reluctance not to spend your leisure time in retirement learning how to use what you essentially perceive as only a business tool, is far more understandable. But I encourage you not to take this blinkered view.
So how can they assist me in my retirement? I hear some of you ask.
Well, the real power lies in the Internet itself. One of the many things it does is give you online access to manage your bank account through your Bank's website - yes, all banks have a completely interactive website - where you can see account balances, move funds between accounts and even pay your bills as needed, with full security to protect you along the way. The only thing you cannot do with your online banking is to deposit any physical cash or cheques you receive: for this you must visit your local bank branch, though some people do imagine trying to bank money by putting it in to a slot on the side of their computer - but technology is not there yet ! If, on the other hand, you are buying something overseas you can establish an internationally recognised PayPal account - you'll see this referenced on buying sites like Ebay - this is separate from the buying site and provides a secure vehicle for both buyer and seller to safely pay and receive proceeds electronically As a result of electronic (online) banking, cheque books are fast becoming a thing of the past - I used to pay everything by cheque but now I rarely draw one - and I always print off an electronic receipt to verify my electronic payment. If a particular vendor requires a copy, I can scan the printed receipt in my multifunction centre (my combined printer/scanner/fax - my "MFC"), attach the scanned "soft copy" - (this is the term used for a computer or digital copy as opposed to a paper or "hard" copy - to an email and send it electronically. Alternatively I could fax it but scanning/email is fast replacing the fax which, like cheques, is quickly becoming redundant.
And the big buzz currently is the massive rise in online shopping outlets where you have access to almost any product possible from anywhere in the world, simply by clicking your mouse! Whilst the likes of Ebay pioneered this phenomenon, now seemingly everyone is doing it from major retail chains to haute couture fashion houses and the options for choice are endless. I must say my old-fashioned habits sometimes slow me down - with some things, especially clothing items, I really like to "touch and feel" the merchandise before buying - is the quality what I want, is the colour correct and does it fit me?? Get these aspects wrong and you've potentially "blown" your money - but I see more and more of the better online merchandisers are, of late, offering hassle-free returns and exchange which is excellent to promote and consolidate this revelation in retail marketing. My recommendation is that you keep an open mind - I've been pleasantly surprised with certain online purchases - I was able to easily research and compare products online, without the need to drive miles, traipsing between suppliers then back again; I was able to order and pay for my selection from the comfort of my own study and the order was safely delivered by courier to my house. So, a very comfortable and satisfying process all around. Among other things, I've so far successfully purchased online for a number of special equipment items for my old car and a particular DVD TV Series box set not readily available at my local shopping centre.
But the Internet has so much more to offer - with converging technologies, your PC can now double as a television, where you can "download" movies for viewing or your favourite music to play at your leisure - there will be small costs associated with these resources, but if you are in any way incapacitated or remotely located then it can provide forms of entertainment not so readily accessible to you. And there is a myriad of free resources also available, so its power as an entertainment resource is huge. Additionally, it is a wonderful information source with companies called "search engines" (e.g Google, Yahoo) which are dedicated to bringing together all manner of commentary and materials on virtually any conceivable subject - by entering some key "search" words as an inquiry on your favourite search engine, you will be inundated with references that directly, or indirectly reference your search. The search can be academic, vocational or simply idle curiosity by nature, purposely educative or purely inquisitive entertainment, but whatever your motive or intention, your inquiry will likely be satisfied. But even if your inquiry relates to a telephone number or the location of a particular business then what used to be available in a printed directory, is now all readily available in a digitised and highly inactively format on the Internet.
If your interest in retirement extends to further education - be it formal, via an online open university or informal where you simply want to teach yourself a foreign language, how to paint or play a musical instrument - all the resources you'll ever need and more are all there at your fingertips through the magic of your computer and the internet. Of course there are numerous other benefits such as communicating regularly with friends via email - or if you are a stickler for formal letters then you can do this using various word processing tools such as Microsoft Word through which you can not only write your letters but also create your very own fancy letterhead to embellish them. You'll only create it once then store it on your Desktop (your main screen) for easy access and use whenever and how ever many times you want. Similarly you can learn simple spreadsheeting skills to create budgets for all manner of projects and you can use these same files later to keep track of and compare your actual costs as you incur them. These skills are both invaluable and infectious, but importantly they'll keep things orderly for you in your retirement years, without a sea of papers that otherwise invade and swamp your space.
But wait, there's more - now there is a new phenomenon dubbed "social networking" - the likes
of Facebook, Twitter, My Space, LinkedIn, Fango to name a few. Very much the domain of young people, some of us oldies are, perhaps tentatively, now entering the frey and whilst the level of etiquette practiced is somewhat different than what we grew up with to know and practice, with due care and caution, there is no reason why you too cannot enjoy the benefits of this very up to the minute means of staying in touch!
But one of the most rewarding aspects of this computerised technology is the ease with which you can catalogue and store all those wonderful photographs you take as you travel and do things in your retirement. And you now have the ability to improve them - "photoshop" them - to take out clouds to make a sunny background or to crop or edit out an unwanted passer-by that entered the frame just as you snapped the shutter. Moreover, you now have the ability to send a photo or two by digitally attaching them to your digital letters or emails. With purpose-made software, you can also engage in digital scrapbooking - yet another way of capturing special events in your life which you can digitally publish and share with others. In several recent articles - "Ancestry ...and all those family photos" at http://retirementLIFE.net.au/?p=1601 and "Plan your own funeral...while you still can!" at http://retirementLIFE.net.au/?p=2462 - I advocate the use of digital media to enhance and assist with the collection, storage and delivery of the vast amounts of data that you'll inevitably sift and sort through in those strategic and edifying retirement pastime projects.
Oh, and in case you think you are too old to start, think again! Our car club secretary is an 80 years young retired fireman who still actively volunteers with his local rural brigade and who runs a community computer club. He is self- taught and actively assists younger retirees to become competent computer users. He does all of the car club meeting agendas, minutes and correspondence on his PC and has previously been the membership secretary managing a large electronic database of members and was also editor of the club magazine - he acquired none of these skills as a fireman but was able to master them in retirement! All this to say, YOU ARE NEVER TOO OLD!! Perchance today, through a Twitter Connect, we've been introduced to a fabulous initiative in Victoria, Australia - Senior Techies, a group which actively promotes training seniors in computers and social media skills for better communication and connection with family and friends.
Take a look at http://www.seniortechies.com.au/#
Also, be sure to check out www.forseniors.com.au - here, friends Chris and Nicole give you all the information and helpful hints you will ever need to know about using Social Media - Facebook Twitter, Youtube etc - this is a MUST READ!
You will have sensed that I too am a staunch advocate of computers in the hands of retirees for the many reasons I've already described but have I convinced you to (if indeed you have not already) to embrace our "computerised" generation? I hope so! I realise it will be daunting at first - what type of computer should I buy?: and what software platform is preferable? But there are just so many experts in most computer stores ready and willing to help and guide you - all you need to do is engage with one and before long you'll be on board, you really cannot go wrong! And do you know what? It really doesn't matter what particular choices you make because all will lead you to largely the same place - a digital world which will most certainly uplift you - at times even frustrate you - but overall will ensure you stay both connected and interested, or should I say, interesting and relevant!!
...and remember...have a fabulous retirementLIFE!