MayA few of the many articles in this months LilyPad newsletter can be seen here in their entirety.

The May issue, which can be purchased ($1.50) at many local stores, features the articles listed below.

[Newsletter of the Rochester Computer Club, Rochester NY. Non-profit newsletter use permitted with credit, and copy of the results to RCC.]

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Computer Use & the Elderly

May '96 Issue Lilypad p4, Phil Shapiro, Dick Comegys Editor

[An edited reprint from the Washington DC Apple Pi Journal; as printed in the Rochester NY FROG LilyPad May '96; with some observations by the LilyPad Editor, Dick Comegys.]

[Newsletter of the FROG Computer Society Rochester NY. Non-profit newsletter use permitted with credit, and copy of the results to FROG.]

(The author works as an educational computing consultant and freelance writer; and is a contributor to the Washington (DC) Apple Pi Journal. He can be reached at: and has a home-page at

Last month a friend of mine in Washington Apple Pi user group asked me if I knew of any research being done in the field of computer use and the elderly. His persistently friendly questions piqued my interest to track down any articles or books that might have been published in this field.

I love a good information hunt. A juicy research challenge can be a voyage of discovery_ full of unexpected, interesting surprises.

For starters, I went searching for the earliest article discussing the use of technology with the elderly. To my amazement the earliest article on this subject was written way back in 1973.

Writing in a visionary article titled, "Computers and Technology: Aiding Tomorrow's Aged," published in a periodical titled, "The Gerontologist," the authors of this article spell out the promise of technology use with the elderly_ even before the first microcomputers appeared in our homes.

Co-written by a psychiatrist and a computer scientist, the article urges readers to consider how technological advances can be used to promote intellectual vigor and independence in the elderly. After discussing the "intellectually stimulating" uses of computers with the elderly, the article concludes with a strong paragraph on the economic benefits of getting the elderly involved as active users of technology: "The powerless and helpless feeling of the aged is due not only to increasing infirmity but to society's failure to set up institutions and systems that would make it possible for the elderly to overcome the handicaps they have. [The] benefits to society as a whole would be enormous as there is no greater cost in our society than the cost of personal service. An elderly person with a maximum amount of ability to care for himself/herself would save society huge sums of money. The costs of institutionalization are already exorbitant and this will not change. Technological innovations in these areas will help the senior members of society to continue as viable participants in its processes." (The Gerontologist, Autumn, 1973, pp. 323-25)

Bold thinking for 1973, for sure. And as directly relevant today as it was the day those words were written 22 years ago.

Moving forward in time, the publication I find most exciting is a scholarly quarterly named: "Computers in the Human Services." I tracked down back issues (1994 only) at Marymount University library, in Arlington, Virginia.

This publication covers a broad scope of computer uses in the human service professions. More than a few articles are written by people deeply passionate about computer uses of this sort. And their insights and experiences make for gripping reading.

[Another] publication that gives good coverage to technology use with the elderly is, "Educa?tional Gerontologist." In a 1983 article, "Micro?computers and the Elderly: New Directions for Self-Sufficiency and Life-Long Learning," authors James Hoot and Bert Hayslip, Jr: note that microcomputer manufacturers have done very little to target older persons as prospective computer users: "Why is it_ that older persons who could capitalize on a lifetime of experience in developing new computer skills are not actively sought as educational computer users? _There is much evidence in the gerontological literature to suggest that older adults are in fact both interested in and capable of continued learning_ Computers have a number of features which make them particularly conducive to use by older adults_ Never before in our history has so much potential for individualized lifelong learning been available to senior citizens."

Technology Helps Foster Independence -

Perhaps the most vital aspect of the use of technology with the aged is that it fosters greater independence: "The ability to communicate and store information in writing is an important functional skill for everyday living. Among the elderly, written communication may be an important means by which loneliness caused by geographic mobility of family and friends could be diminished. Also, the ability to prepare and maintain written personal records (i.e. finances) may be a crucial aspect of actual or perceived independence. Conversely, impaired writing may lead to a sense of dependency and decreased self-worth."

Computer User Group Support -

Computer user groups stand in an excellent position to lend assistance to projects involving computer use and the elderly. Within Washington Apple Pi there are several people who have been involved in interesting projects. Al Marcovitz, the computer coordinator at Maret School, in the District of Columbia, has set up a project where seniors from Iona Senior Services can learn about computers at Maret's Macintosh computer lab. Seniors, paired with students, explore and enjoy various programs on the Mac. Al's project has had press coverage in the Washington Post, and has garnered considerable interest by those interested in "inter-generational computing projects."

Another noted "seniors computing" project involved longtime WAP members Bernie and Paula Benson. Back in 1981 Bernie and Paula volunteered to help the Hebrew Home of Greater Washington (in Rockville) use Apple II computers with the home's elderly residents. The Bensons modified existing Apple II public domain programs so that they were slower and more suited for use by older computer users. The programs they modified were Little Brick Out, Ribbet, Country Driver, and Hangman.

The initiatives by Al Marcovitz and the Benson family show that great things can happen if people take action to make them happen...

[The Club's BBS includes a Volunteer section for posting interests and needs.]

Another way of supporting the emerging field of "seniors and computing" is to get your local library to subscribe to the publication Computers in Human Services (and to subscribe, if you have a personal interest in the subject). By subscribing to this publication, you can affirm the values that the publisher has shown in establishing a publication on this topic.

Resources on the Internet -

In researching this article I spent some time roaming the Internet to uncover whatever might have been written on this topic. One web page of particular interest is the personal web page of Dick Schoech, the editor of Computers in Human Services publication. I would recommend this web page as a good starting point for anyone interested in this subject. The page can be found at:

It appears that the field of academic interest most closely aligned with "seniors computing" concerns is the field of social work. "Neurology" and "cognitive rehabilitation" appear to be two other fields that explore issues related to seniors computing issues. Perhaps Oliver Sacks, the celebrated author of "Awakenings," might devote his attention to seniors computing topics at some time. The field needs a stirring book to help galvanize public interest in the subject.

Conclusion -

The field of technology use with the elderly has barely begun to be explored. While the current literature on the subject is exciting and full of promise, the sum total of recent articles on the subject can be counted on your fingers.

My sense is that within a few years there is bound to evolve several subdivisions within the larger field of computer use and the elderly. You'll see fields emerge along the lines of: Seniors on-line, use of computers to develop and strengthen memory skills, use of computers for the writing and sharing of memoirs, intergenerational computing projects (teaming seniors with school aged students), use of computers to assess cognitive functions, etc.

It seems to me that many older adults may be receptive to using technology if introduced to it in a comfortable environment. If introduced in the right way, technology can become a major hobby and interest in the lives of the elderly.

As for the therapeutic uses of computers, it stands to reason that the intellectual declines which are part of the natural process of aging could very well be slowed (and sometimes counteracted) by getting the elderly involved as active users of technology. A game as simple as Tetris, for instance, can engage the mind in an amusing problem-solving exercise.

The same enjoyable pleasures that occur when any of us master a new computer skill can have therapeutic value to both young and old. When you learn something new on the computer the result is a sense of accomplishment and satisfaction that invariably creates a feeling of well-being. The human mind can sense its own growth, and feels emboldened when that growth occurs on a regular basis.

Someday soon computer companies and the media will begin to recognize how valuable a contribution technology can have in the lives of the elderly. Until then, it's up to you and me to spread the word.

Editor's Note:

My mother-- who's going on 84 and suffering a lot of hearing loss-- was talked into a computer this past Christmas. She had been intrigued with my AT&T NotePad last fall, but-- with my siblings being into education and Macintoshes-- picked up a Mac at Christmas. (I admit it, a very realistic choice [apart from Geoworks] for someone who "just wants to get things done.")

Within two months she was writing a book, on-line with a local Free-Net provider, and more in touch with all of us than we've been for years. What TTY service and telephone amplifiers couldn't do, the flexibility of e-mail has accomplished! 

Computer Road Maps

May '96 Issue Lilypad p.11, Dick Comegys, Editor, The LilyPad

[Newsletter of the FROG Computer Society Rochester NY. Non-profit newsletter use permitted with credit, and copy of the results to FROG.]

The Barnes & Noble opener in Rochester last month gave me a chance to browse a couple of computerized Road-Map programs. I was a little surprised at the ease with which the staff consented to open up two programs for demos, with a very slight chance of selling either. But hooray for the service! I hope it continues.

For openers, I tried the high-price spread-- a CD-ROM set like a diamond in the middle of a rather large box: DeLorme's Street Atlas USA. Getting it out of the box was a challenge; once out, you'll need a case for it. It installed so quickly, the salesperson installed it again!

The display-- once started-- lends itself to point-and-click selection anywhere in the country. Creating a frame on an area by doing a click-and-drag will home in on that site. And zooming-- either in-or-out, single-stage or four-at-a-time-- makes navigating rather easy. Clicking at the edge of a mapped segment adjusts the map from point-to-point.

The maps are easy-to-read, and quite detailed-- rather in the style of the local Geographia maps with streets represented as having two curbs. Access to a locality can be done by typing the place-name, the ZIP code, or a telephone area-code and exchange!

I checked out my own neighborhood; my old home-town in Delaware (the map showed street-names even for the alleys!); and finally, Hatteras Village on the Outer Banks of North Carolina. Each time, getting there was easy, the graphics were pleasing, and the detail was astonishing! Short of showing buildings (who's complaining?), this map is right on the money! In short, it was responsive and easy-to-use. At just a nickel under $80, however, I thought it was a bit pricey.

Especially since Microsoft was offering a $50 Automap Streets with TWO CD-ROMs! So we opened up that one, too. The Win95 machine made more celebrative noise over this one (MS is really tacky that way!) as it went through the install process, trying to relate it to anything previously installed. And when the initial Roadmap screen came up, there were street sounds and a little music!

Trouble was, I was in Los Angeles; and when I typed in I really wanted Rochester NY, it told me to put in the #2 disk. OK, so Rochester's not the center of the world. And from Microsoft's viewpoint, neither is the Eastern US; but with two disks, you've gotta make choices somewhere!

To put it briefly, I have no idea what you get-- aside from possible sound-and-fury-- from the larger database. I never quite got the hang of maneuvering the map. This also boasts the click-and-drag frame-and-select process; but that's almost auxiliary to the border slide-bars-- which cover a heckuva lot of ground! I went to adjust down Normandy from Chili Avenue; and wound up way down south of Erie Station! The full map must have gone all the way to the Pennsylvania line!

The mapping was cruder-- a simple line instead of the full street representation; and the detail was nowhere up to the DeLorme standard! I skipped Delaware, went straight for Hatteras; and was told that I was off the continent! I had to go nearly 100 miles inland to identify a map that covered the area; and when I got fully zoomed in on Hatteras, the mapping was not in the same league as the DeLorme disk's. Needless to say, I did not find any ZIP or phone-exchange locators. And it takes Microsoft TWO disks to do that!

Both programs offer map-print features-- not tried (no printer). And possible other goodies; the DeLorme disk notes it links to another application, a (presumably-national) phone book.

The obvious use for either approach is in a CD-equipped NotePad. And if I ever upgrade to that, the DeLorme is the disk-of-choice! 

If A Computer Beeps

May '96 Issue Lilypad p.16, Chris Deskur

[Newsletter of the FROG Computer Society Rochester NY. Non-profit newsletter use permitted with credit, and copy of the results to FROG.]

This little tale was passed the Editor's way by Chris Deskur <ur-valhalla!!Chris_Deskur>

It purports to be "an actual bug report (from a friend at Microsoft)". The Editor will not vouch for the authenticity of that; but figures there are enough Microsoft Luddites, philosophers of science and others who remember the old "If a tree falls in the forest and nobody hears it_" question, to get a few chuckles anyway.

Bug # Status Title

5143 ACTIVE "Build done" signal makes no sound

=== ACTIVE -- 01/30/95 -- MIKEBLAS ===

Visual C++ makes an audible signal when a build completes. When no developer is in the room, this signal doesn't make a sound. To reproduce:

1) Start a build.

2) Leave the room.

3) Note that the chime does not make a sound.

We should find a way to make the build bell make a sound even if nobody is there to hear it.

This philosophical issue may need program management's attention before being resolved.

=== ASSIGNED to MATTHEWT -- 01/30/95 -- SCOTF ===

Can we use the telepathy support in Win95 to contact whomever is logged into the machine doing the build? Maybe we should just detect when the developer is leaving the room and prompt for a phone number where s/he can be reached.

How about disabling leaving the room during a build?

=== RESOLVED -- BY DESIGN -- 01/31/95 -- MATTHEWT ===

=== ACTIVE -- 02/01/95 -- MARKLAM ====

Actually, we can't do this either. The problem is that while you're out of the room your build is neither finished nor unfinished. It stays in a state of flux until you return and collapse the quantum uncertainty by observing it.

Perhaps we could link the build finished event to a cat in a box?

=== ASSIGNED to HEISENBERG -- 02/01/95 -- MARKLAM ===

=== RESOLVED -- NOT REPRO -- 02/03/95 -- HEISENBERG ===

I cannot repro this. I tried standing just outside my door and it made the beep. Do I have to go further from my office? Would the mailroom do?

=== ACTIVE -- 02/03/95 -- MIKEBLAS ===

The relative position of the mailroom and your office are relatively uncertain to me, Doctor.

Please try again:

1) start a build

2) leave your office

3) go down the hall

4) wait until you don't hear the beep

5) return to note that the build is done

I think this is how I first repro'ed the problem, but I can't remember what I was doing to make it happen.

The idea of disabling leaving the room might be the best possible solution, I think. When a build starts, the IDE should pop up a message that says "There are no more Fritos" or "The kitchen has closed early" or "The bathroom is being cleaned" so the developer will not be tempted to get up and wander around.

With minimal rebuild in place, we should consider diversions that won't take as long to remedy: "You're expecting a phone call" or "Someone will stop by to see you soon".

We need to think of messages that are easy to localize for VC++3.0J.

=== ASSIGNED to MIKEBLAS -- 02/13/95 -- MARKLAM ===

To do this we'll need to avoid messages about the bathrooms and vending machines for external releases. Perhaps some customer research is needed to find out exactly *why* Visual C++ users leave their keyboards.

Some suggestions (including MB_ types)

Get a drink :

(i) You're out of coffee

(i) You're out of tea

(i)(i) YYoouuvv''ee hhaadd eennoouugghh

Get something to eat :

(?) You have no food, remember

/!\ You need to lose weight, fatso. Sit down

Exercise etc :

(?) Did You Know -- sunlight causes skin cancer

(i) With a Nordik Trak you can get a workout in front of your monitor. Call for home delivery.

/!\ I didn't mean that about your weight

See family :

(i) They already know you love them

/!\ They'll only want money for something

/!\ Your in-laws have arrived

Call of nature :

This could be difficult. Consider supplying bed-pan or similar.

=== ASSIGNED to MIKEBLAS -- 02/13/95 -- MARKLAM ===

=== ASSIGNED to MIKEBLAS -- 02/16/95 -- HEISENBERG ===

I attempted to repro this once more:

I placed my machine in the forest at the edge of the campus. I started a 'rebuild all' and ran out of the forest towards my mailroom. My build normally takes 3 minutes. After 5 minutes I had not heard anything, so I returned to my machine. Unfortunately a tree had fallen on it. I had not heard that, either.

Random Writes

May'96 Issue Lilypad p.15, Dick Comegys, Editor, The LilyPad

[Newsletter of the FROG Computer Society Rochester NY. Non-profit newsletter use permitted with credit, and copy of the results to FROG.]

AOL has offered a Web gateway for the past year or so (for Windows users); their Web-Crawler is easy-to-use, does a comprehensive search; and can access Yahoo!, Magellan or other search-engines if you don't think that's all.

AOL also offers an Internet-only service, GNN; by their courtesy in providing a connection for User-Group Editors I tried it. (The courtesy apparently doesn't go much further than the free-hours intro available to anyone.) I found no advantage in the time I spent on that one; in both cases, my concentration was on reaching Web sites. On the face of it, AOL's main-line Internet Connection offers as much or more: File-Accessing (FTP), Newsgroups, and Internet e-mail.

AOL now offers Netscape as a Web-navigator; the graphics offer refinements not accessed by the Crawler. But Netscape on my machine seems slower-especially in returning to previous screens; the AOL system seems to buffer a number of these-- at least they come up instantly; Netscape seems to re-connect and re-transmit the data.

Which brings me back to my image: the Bazaar as opposed to the highway. Linking from screen-to-screen, site-to-site is more like wandering among booths or tables, pawing through piles of goodies. And the analogy does not end there; practically everyone has something to sell: manufacturers, you expect; on-line magazines-- subscribe! Offers at every corner, for goods I never imagined in the first place.

And the time! The pace of movement is slow, whatever your Modem-connect speed; transmission time is that of the slowest link in the system. Information is around here somewhere; and presumably there are_ or will be_ those that get efficient at sorting it all out. But I take note of college students net-surfing so much they flunk out. My own hours on-line can hardly be called productive. Particularly on the Web; but it's one heck of a collection of possibilities!

That, of course, has alarmed enough Congress-folk, to respond with the Communications Decency Act. Which in turn has brought into being one of the year's more interesting lawsuits-- one to test the constitutionality of that legislation.

No further action is promised 'til mid-May; but when it happens, you can follow it at


At that site you can also review the issues from the point-of-view of the American Library Association, AOL and countless others who are joined in the action to overturn the CDA. And add your voice to the clamor, if you so choose.

March has brought an "everybody-into-the-pool" flurry of agreements. Microsoft's, to package access to AOL, Compuserve, and probably others in up-coming releases of Win95; AOL's to use Microsoft's navigator as its primary surfing tool (with Netscape as an alternate choice; primary on its GNN service). And AT&T hooking up with AOL in the telephone company's (re)entry into PC-telecommunications.

The Microsoft agreements were long overdue; should have been part of the initial Win95 release last summer. More interesting it AT&T's offer of five Internet hours-a-month free; $19.95/ month for unlimited time. Jack Greenky checked further into that one; found an error in the 800-- number (it's really 1-800-967-5363-- a voice-mail system, if you can cope with that. Greenky notes "The software requires a 386 or higher, 8 mb ram, 11 mb hard drive space, under Windows." Our Mac-cousins will feel cheated again!

The newsletter editors can be reached at by phone, email and the RCC BBS

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