NEWARK — Five years ago, it was a lot easier for seniors to leave computing to others, leading an unplugged life like the one they long knew.
But now, observers say, people who want to communicate with their far-away grandchildren, take and archive photographs, buy music and order home movies increasingly have no choice but to take the plunge.
For newcomers to the computing life, the divide can be like walking through a foreign country, said Veronica Rempusheski, professor of nursing at the University of Delaware.
Many seniors don’t know what the symbol for “attachment” means, or that a big “E” stands for Internet Explorer, a starting point for Web browsing — or that there’s that other symbol for Mozilla Firefox, which will also connect to the Web, she said.
“Anyone can live without anything,” she said. “We can live without TV, but if your relationships with grandchildren, keeping in touch no matter where they are in the country, is important, you attempt to do whatever you need to do.”
Taking the first step can be daunting, but there are ways to ease the transition.
On a recent Thursday, nearly 100 members of the over-50 set packed into a conference room at the Newark Senior Center to hear a presentation from Bob Bloom on watching television shows over the Internet.
Bloom is vice president of the Senior Surfers Computer Club. The group has weekly presentations at the senior center on trends in computing and offers classes for starters and advanced users.
To watch an online clip of CBS’ new comedy “How to Be a Gentleman,” the group sat through 30 seconds of advertising, which Bloom said illustrated a point.
“One is not going to get away from advertising,” even when they’re not watching shows on a physical television, he told the gathering.
A Senior Surfers board member, Helen Browne, a retired software instructor, said playing the card game solitaire is a good way for seniors to start using a computer. It will introduce them to using a mouse, she said.
For every senior that used a computer for his or her job, there’s a woman who never worked a day job or a man who relied on his secretary, she said.