Senior Citizen's Guide digital books
Senior Citizen's Guide

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Staying in Touch for Less

At 60 years old, I am learning a new technology and loving it. It's better than an answering machine, saves me money, which I certainly like, and even allows me to talk back and forth in real time. E-mail is available from all sorts of different services. All you need is a computer and an inquiring mind. If you have those, then get ready for an adventure.

Our three grown children are located throughout California. The bill to call each of them, even for a few minutes, quickly can soar out of sight. Often when we would call, we would end up leaving a message on the answering machine, Then, the children would incur additional expenses when they called us back.

Each of them had their own computers and were connected to various services for e-mail. My oldest son, Jim Jr., convinced me it was time to get with the new technology. On one of his visits home, he installed an extension to my phone line and hooked me up with a service that was free for 30 days. How could I go wrong?

I couldn't and I didn't. At first, I just learned how to create an address book with the e-mail addresses of our children, relatives and friends. Then, I started sending the kids short notes. I would compose these e-mail letters and have the computer send them later. Then, when I had finished writing for the day, I would activate what my service called a flash session.

My computer through my modem would dial a local number, get connected after checking my password, and then send as many messages as I had prepared, all in seconds. Now, a local call is a lot cheaper than a phone call on a weekday, during business hours to someone who is over 300 miles away and in some cases 3000 miles away in New York. Add in the fact that you could have gotten an answering machine and you can see that you saved yourself some money.

The next feature that I was introduced to was the buddy list. This service allowed me to create a list of friends and relatives that I would like to speak to live if they were online when I was online. So, the next thing I did was activate my flash session while I was online. Then I would press the required buttons to see if my kids were online. If one was or all of them were, we could connect with each other and talk back and forth on the computer. Fantastic! We were talking as if on the phone, but instead of speaking words we were typing words and hitting the send button. Then the kids would respond. It can get quite challenging juggling conversations with three people at the same time, but it is so much fun.

Now, the final thing I want to tell you about is the Internet. All seniors should go "surfing" on it. You can plug in a subject like, for example, financial markets. Then the server will do a search and come up with all sorts of web sites that talk about financial markets. Anything you ever wanted to know about financial markets and were afraid to ask is available. You can search for larger topics like cooking or hunting or more detailed topics like Chinese restaurants in Mt. Washington, PA. You know, what you save on phone calls could even help you buy a computer if you don't already own one.

With this technology, you never have to be bored or waste time sitting in front of the television. You can be "with it". Surf the net. impress your grandchildren and your other senior friends.

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