Natalie Silver, owner of That Gadget Gal, is with us to talk about smartphones, email, and other tech devices. In this episode of Senior Living LIVE!, she's sharing her favorite tips and tricks to help us navigate technology and save us from some common frustrations.


Video Transcript

- Hello everyone, and welcome into Senior Living LIVE. My name is Melissa. I hope you are having a wonderful day today. And thank you so much for joining us. Well, we are all about building your knowledge when it comes to senior living and when it comes to technology, it's always constantly changing, you can't keep up. But when you've got someone like my guest that I've got here with me today in your corner, it is a game changer. I am very happy to introduce you to Natalie Silver, the owner, the founder of That Gadget Gal. A very, I would say self-explanatory title. Natalie, how are you doing today?

- I'm great, thank you, Melissa. How are you?

- Doing fantastic and really glad that you were able to make the time to join us today. I think this is such an important topic when it comes to not just our seniors, but everybody in general could use a little bit of help when it comes to technology. because it seems like every day when you turn around, there's something new out there you might want to try, but it can be a little daunting sometimes.

- Oh, absolutely.

- Yeah, first and foremost, tell me a little bit about yourself and your background.

- Well, I got an early chance to work with computers in high school, believe it or not. And so I have kind of caught the bug and I've been a programmer and a database developer and a computer instructor for 30 years. I teach at Kennesaw State University. And about three years ago, it occurred to me that there really was not someone that presented themselves as trying to help the older generation. What I assumed is anybody older than me, and we're not going there, but anyone older than me probably hadn't had a computer in high school or college. And now you're forced to use one in your pocket every day. So if I can help stop that from being a challenge and make it a tool that is actually helpful and useful, then that's what my goal is. And it's not just phones. I support PCs, laptops, tablets, DirecTV, Roku. I'm throwing out company names now, but if it has a plug, I will try to support it as best I can. Because a lot of people that have downsized got all new TVs, they're all smart. Well, that doesn't mean anything to this group of people. And so I can come in and help make the smart TV actually easy to use and enjoyable.

- Yeah, and you're from Kennesaw, right? So that's in Georgia.

- Yes. But you, because of technology, we're back to that, right? You're able to kind of reach out everywhere, right?

- Right, my reach is as far as this camera and Zoom will take me. And I, over the last year and a half, have become very comfortable with this very... I've taught classes where I had people in the room with me and on Zoom, and they were in another part of the country. So COVID, we have almost to thank for giving us this comfort level with the Zoom. Not just FaceTime but actual Zoom, where we can not just sit and talk or talk about the weather. We can actually share each other's screens and see what's going on and answer real questions. So I've taken advantage of that over the last year. And it's really been great. Now I did feel bad for people who weren't set up and ready to go. When we got locked down, I had a lot of scrambling to do to get loaner computers to people to get them on the internet so they could still communicate with people. Now we've kind of come through that and most everybody's got some way of communicating outside and we can go outside again. But it was kind of forced on us and we weren't ready. So I've learned a lot from that situation as well.

- And in your experience over the past year and a half, since we are talking about, you know, COVID, I mean, that has really accelerated the need to understand technology. Because if you didn't have it, especially as a senior, you were disconnected from the rest of the world. So can you tell me your experiences on that end?

- Well, a lot of the people I knew didn't have a PC anymore. They'd walked away from that. They had a phone. Well, we can Zoom or FaceTime on a phone and that's great. But when you get to wanting to connect on a little bit more personal level, you can use some of the other products that Google or Facebook make, the Portal and those others. So we've been setting those up for some people. And it's just a question of what your comfort level is and how you need to connect with your friends. One of the benefits of those portals is it's a private network. So you can't just talk to anyone. You only talk to people that you have allowed in. So that makes the security thing a little more comfortable. You know, as soon as we don't understand something, we're instantly taken aback by it, or a little of shy of jumping in. And you know, a phone has kind of evolved in our hands so we are comfortable with that. But when you start putting a camera in someone's home so that you could talk to them, that puts people on their heels. So one of my jobs really is to make people understand this is not a spy. This is not anything that you have to be worried or afraid of. This is just so you can see your grand babies as they change from day to day, or talk to your sister that's all the way across the country, more than just a phone call. And so those are the kinds of things I hope to help with in all the properties that I've called on and any individuals that are, you know, still living independently. What I have found is it is easier to take instruction from someone outside your family than it is to take instruction from someone that you are related to. That the wall goes up, the insults, you know, fly when you feel like you are being talked down to by your sister, brother, husband, wife, daughter, pick out one of those. So if I can come in and kind of fill that in, then that's also a reason to do what I'm doing.

- Yeah, to be the middleman. Sometimes you just need it, right? You gave some great examples there. And also something that you pointed out that I never even thought about. But yeah, there was a little bit of a lack of trust, right?

- Oh, absolutely.

- When it comes to technology. And I guess, you know, when you talk about the different generations, obviously our younger generation is easy to trust just about anything that comes out, but maybe not so much when it comes to our older generation.

- Right. You know, there are people alive who didn't have phones in their houses. They didn't have televisions. So to have, you know, all these things come in over the years. They've watched how that's progressed. But it's in the last 10 that things have just rocketed. And you've gone from everybody having a phone in their pocket to everyone having a smartphone in their pocket. And then the possibilities are just tenfold. You can not just make phone calls, but you can surf the web, find a good restaurant, make a reservation, all without dialing anyone. Those are the things that some people really get excited and I watch them and I'm so proud of them for being courageous and going in and trying stuff. And I see others that go, "No, All I know how to do is text or answer a phone call." And I want to fill... I'm a trainer by nature. That's what I've done for the last 25 years. I want to make people work smarter, not harder. And even if you're not working, you're still using a computer. And I want you to be able to operate it. So, and there's more, you know, they say there's more technology in an iPhone than there was in the computers that sent the men to the moon. And that was 40 years ago. So that kind of says what I'm saying, that we've gone in this jet rocket path of technology being everywhere. We can't check out in a restaurant without it. I mean our grocery store. Some people pay with their phones. So then they're not walking around with a wallet. That's nice. One of the tips that I did for some of my seniors, because everybody had a similar looking phone, is I would sit with them and take a picture of them and make it their background. So when they opened the phone, they see their face. Well, they're like, "I don't want to look at my face." And I said, "Yes, but you leave that on a table. "And someone else walks up and picks it up, "'Oh, this is Sharon's phone. Got it.' "And take it to her." So, you know, if you live in a community where you you're out and about all the time, and you might let your phone down, that's just something I've found really helped people.

- And that is a great idea. I have been to many communities, many of the Arbor communities, and yes, you see people leaving their phone accidentally. They go to the library, they pick up the newspaper, they leave their stuff, they walk away. What a great tip. What a fantastic tip. I hope you guys are taking notes. She's just getting warmed up.

- I'm not giving away all my secrets.

- Okay. Well, speaking of your secrets, we know, as you mentioned off the top, you're well-versed in a lot of different technology. Anything with a plug. We talked about Mac, PCs, PC excuse me. We talked about Roku, Netflix, Excel, Microsoft Word. I mean, you can really run the list, run the gamut here.

- Yes.

- Now, in talking to your clients, what types of technology and applications appear to be maybe the simplest for them to navigate and what are the most difficult?

- Well, email set up on any device is a hurdle. And it shouldn't be so complicated, but it is. So that's something. Like yesterday, I sat at a property and had office hours where I was just in the lobby answering questions. One of the ladies had accidentally turned or deleted her email from her phone. And so we got it set back up. And it's quite a few questions, password organization, keeping up with those. That's another huge hurdle. Because you know, there's basically three ways seniors would communicate with the phone or a tablet. And that's a telephone call, a text message or an email. And if you turn off by accident, any one of those three, you know, it's hard to figure it out how to get it back without someone else getting involved. I had one lady that had had her phone in airplane mode. Okay, won't make a phone call. So, you know, the more aware I could make them of that. But also not, I don't need them to understand how to set up the email. I can do that for them. Just know that I can do it if you accidentally, you know. Nothing, can't be undone. We can figure it out and put it back where it goes. Those are the hurdles because there's still this, not quite sure how it works. And instead of having to understand it, they just let someone else do it. I'm fine with that. I just don't want people to go without. I don't want them to say, "Well, it doesn't work on there anymore. "I'm not gonna worry about it." No, give it to me. I will see what I can do to fix it. And then you will have your email in your fingertips and not having to go sit at your computer, etc. So I would say the three main things I listed are the main things that they're trying to use. Their tablet could be anything from the internet to taking pictures and organizing their photos to Dropbox, to those types of things. Their phone, phone calls, doctor's appointments. There's apps now for just about every medical practice. And they've got to get signed into those. I get asked all the time, what passwords should I use? What is the best way to keep up with them? And you know, so these are things that there's gonna continue to be a need for people to get assistance, get it squared away. And then use it for a while and then something will break and we'll fix it and we'll keep going.

- Yeah, I need the secret sauce for the passwords. Because boy, when you've got to do a lowercase, uppercase and the random character, and it's got to be like 18 characters long. It's just, it's for the birds. But yeah, it's just kind of where we are with technology these days. Now I want you to give me some examples and you've given me a few already, but some examples that I think can really speak to our viewers of how impactful your services have been to. others.

- Oh, well, during COVID, it was really amazing because people were stuck in their homes. And if I could get them a Zoom account set up and their camera and all that connected, then that gave them an out. And they weren't just looking at four walls and wishing for this to all be over. So I would say that the majority of the people that I've worked with over the last year and a half, we were at two different levels. One was make sure they were connected, which is a technical thing. They don't need to necessarily understand all of it, but let's get them connected. Whatever it is, email, Zoom, phone. And then second is how to benefit from having this tool. Like looking up a recipe or finding out some history. There's a lot of things, if you want to go find out things about it, you can. But sometimes you'd get lost just trying to open the browser on a phone if you're not sure what you're doing. So I guess to answer your question, I'd rather be the trainer and get the technical parts out of the way. And just answer questions about curiosity or... You know, "Someone told me I should get a watch. "What do you think?" Yes, I would love it if you would get a watch. It has a fall detection device in it, therefore you're just that much more protected by whatever it is, you know, wherever you are. All right, well, we need to have a class on the watch now. So that's in the works with me and one of my properties. Because every time I introduce something new and they get all excited about it, then I got to follow through with a class. So that's what I've been doing for the last year and a half. And it's really fun. I've made a lot of new friends, which is really neat. My grandparents are all passed, so I've kind of adopted about six pair so far. And I got room for more so I can do whatever I'm needed to do to make their lives easier.

- Sure, now you mentioned the top three things that you maybe are the most requested that you need to help people with. Which is helping them text, helping them send emails, with their phone calls. Are you starting to see any emerging technologies of anything that you're like, "wow, I need to get brushed up on this "because I'm getting a lot of requests for this."

- Oh, well, Zoom was one of those, but now I'm pretty comfortable with that. And of course not everybody is. Some people have stayed away from it. And there's a lot of different versions of Zoom. You know, Microsoft's got Teams, and Google has one. And I think what most people trip over is... I mean, there's always a new app coming down the pipe. That's fine. But as you are on your device and you get offered something, some ad or something, if you touch it the wrong way, you've suddenly gone down a rabbit hole that you're not sure where you are. I wish that could stop. I can't stop it, but I can at least help people understand what to click on and what not to click on. If you're scrolling through Facebook, for example, there are videos that will play. And if you touch it, it'll take you to their website and leave you off Facebook. Well, that takes people to a place where they don't know where they are, and they can't get back where they were. So I think that, more than any emerging technology, it's the using the technology without falling in those rabbit holes that I'm really working with people to do. And I do it too. I mean, I'll hold the phone wrong. And suddenly I'm looking at, this morning, it was an ad for running shoes. Well, I'm not a runner. So that was, you know, as quick as I could find it. And not always is the little white X in the corner available. You kind of have to ride it out until that X appears and then you can close, and then you could start to go backwards. So, you know, we're always getting, they're always thinking of new ways to get in front of our eyes and give us advertising. But for some people it's a disservice because then it strays them from what they're trying to do. And when the frustration comes in, they give up. And I don't want them to give up. So my goal is to lessen... explain what's happening, lessen the frustration, get them back where they wanna be.

- There you go. Yeah, my favorite is that scrolling a site and then getting this big pop up that says you've won something. And then you can't find the X. And I know for a lot of people... I mean, I know how to get rid of it. But I know for a lot of people, they make it very difficult to get rid of it. And all of a sudden, you can't use your phone anymore. You can't use whatever browser you're using anymore. So let's be real. Sometimes it's just as simple as turning it off and turning it back on.

- Oh, I love that, yes. If at first you don't succeed reboot is hanging on my wall in this office somewhere.

- Very good.

- Because they're manmade. I love that joke. They're manmade. So you have to deal with them in a similar fashion. You get my drift?

- I do.

- And if at first, you don't succeed, you may just need to reboot. And phones need to be turned off and on again frequently because they are a computer. You don't want to leave them plugged in all the time. They need to let the battery sink and then come back. And I'm amazed at how many seniors leave their phone in the living room and go to bed. And I'm on a mission to change that. Because when you are stumbling around in the dark in an emergency, what is it you're looking for? Your phone. So have it right there by the bed and not in the living room. There are settings that you could turn it off so it won't rang in the night. And those are the kinds of things that I'll sit with people and just work through. Who were the three people you would want it to ring no matter what? And then the rest will be, you know, they'll have to wait until morning. And habits of certain generations come through pretty clear in what I'm seeing. And some of them are fine and I can live with it. And some are like, "No, can we talk about this? "'cause I really would like you to be able "to put your hands on that phone the moment you need it."

- Great tip. Great, great tip. Okay, so as we start to wind down our interview here, which has been a lot of fun and very enlightening. I thank you for that. As you mentioned, you are available via Zoom. You're already working with communities. But I assume that you are available to anybody who needs your help. If that's the case, how can they reach you?

- Well, my email is Natalie, And that is the easiest way to reach me. I am in Georgia, but I travel or we've got Zoom, which will make me travel instantly. And I can teach on a variety of subjects. And I'm putting together quite a portfolio of things for, you know, level one, level two, level three on iPhones and Androids and flip phones even, believe it or not. We're gonna do a Jitterbug class next week. So I'm looking to develop and deliver the material that people need anywhere in the planet and as best I can. That's my goal. And you know, COVID's kind of caused that, but I'm happy to go one-on-one in person. But this gives me an another way to do it.

- Yeah, and I've already told you this, but I think it would be great to have you be a guest at the Arbor communities, just for a Q and A session. So everybody can bring all of their favorite devices and they can learn how to use them to the fullest extent. And you can do that, right?

- Right, and you don't have to know it all before you use it. So we're going to build slowly with, you know, battery maintenance and, you know, volume up/down. That's a biggie for people. You know, you put it in your purse and accidentally you turn the volume way down and it won't ring. These are kind of things that are, once we get past, then we can start playing with apps and planning a trip on your phone or these kinds of things. You know, where it's really a tool and not a pain. And yes, I can do that with a property through Zoom. I could do it in person, anywhere, pretty much in the Southeast. So give me a call, let me know how I can help your residents. And we'll go from there.

- Wonderful.

- Thank you, Melissa. This has been great.

- You didn't give us all the tips and that's very smart on your end. But you did give us just enough to reel us in. So, we appreciate that for sure. Natalie, That Gadget Gal. Thank you so much for taking the time to share your knowledge today.

- It was a pleasure. It was very nice to meet you and nice to talk to everyone. And I hope to hear from you.

- Absolutely, thank you. Well, if you watching enjoyed this interview with Natalie, you can head on over to our website, and you can check out all of our video content all about senior living. As always, we appreciate you watching Senior Living LIVE. Have a great day, everybody

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