The average American household is wired with more innovative technology now than ever before, and while “smart” devices give users new and exciting means to tackle ages-old challenges, steep learning curves can make adopting new technology an intimidating feat for even the most adventurous older adult.
Enter local entrepreneur Liz Hamburg’s exciting new senior-focused tech support service, Candoo Tech, that gently ushers seniors into the information age by identifying technological needs, installing devices, training new users and providing in-person and remote troubleshooting assistance.
“Candoo grew from a very personal need,” said Liz, recalling her gadget-loving, 88 year-old father’s enthusiastic adoption of Amazon’s Alexa personal assistant device, as well as his occasional reports that “Alexia has gone out of town” when he misremembered the device’s name.
While there are countless in-home and remote tech support services, Liz found that most focused on installation and case-by-case troubleshooting, rather than user training that helps novices grow comfortable with new technology.
“There wasn’t a tech support service with the patience and empathy to help seniors get comfortable with their technology – older adults might need more support than you can expect from basic tech support teams.”
Unlike traditional tech support services that focus on fixing specific, user-identified problems, Candoo Tech takes a holistic approach to tech support, identifying the needs of a client, introducing tech-based solutions and providing clients with ongoing support so seniors can develop proficiency with new devices and tools at their own pace.
“When we began looking at this [intersection of seniors and technology] we found people often reported feelings of frustration, powerlessness and embarrassment when they ran into problems,” Liz said. “That’s why we’ve built a patient and empathetic team of experts – we want the message for our clients to be “‘you can do it!’”
To that end, Liz’s team intentionally starts small, identifying one or two devices or features that will directly improve a senior’s quality of life, building client confidence and slowly expanding the client’s stable of tech to tackle new challenges.
During an initial home visit, Candoo Tech specialists take an inventory of the devices currently in a client’s home and suggest new ways these devices can improve a client’s quality of life, be it setting up a Netflix account or finding safe spaces online where seniors can play games like Mahjong or cards, connecting clients to their families through email or smartphone apps, or harnessing the power of personal assistant-style technology like Alexa to help clients remember to take their medication, stand and stretch, or attend important medical appointments.
After the initial visit, Candoo Tech provides clients and designated family members clear documentation (called Candoo How-To’s) to reinforce training they received during the visit. Candoo also offers clients follow-up troubleshooting services both in person and through remote support, giving clients peace of mind that help is only a call or email away.
While Candoo can come for an a la carte visit to install new devices or solve a specific problem, most users sign up for an annual membership. Priced at $240, the membership covers unlimited remote support by phone or online and two free in-home visits to introduce additional devices or apps to the client, provide further training or troubleshoot a particularly sticky problem.
How Technology Helps
Liz and her team are in a unique position to see how seniors adapt to new technology, improve teaching methods and identify tools that can make a tangible difference in the lives of older adults. While no two clients have the same needs or technological prowess, the Candoo team has observed some interesting trends.
- Amazon’s Alexa personal assistant has proven surprisingly popular for many seniors, as the system’s verbal commands are easier to use, especially for seniors with limited eyesight or typing dexterity. Uses include scheduling appointment reminders, ordering household supplies, or simply reminding a user to stand up and stretch at regular intervals or take medication. Connecting Alexa to household lights also serve as a great way to lower the risk of late-night falls, as the user can verbally activate their bedroom lights, rather than walking to a light switch in the dark.
- Social online games like Words With Friends are a fun activity for seniors that can help encourage mental activity and social engagement, keeping families and social circles close regardless of physical distance.
- Developing a basic fluency with film and TV streaming services like Netflix and watching on programming on an iPad or other tablet might seem daunting at first, but open up a galaxy of entertainment options beyond daytime TV.
- Password manager programs have proven incredibly useful for keeping users of all ages online, connected and secure, but are particularly important for older users, who are often seen as easier targets for malicious hackers.
- While accessibility features vary significantly between different apps and devices, most modern hardware and software offer a slew of options (often hidden in sub-sub menus) that make it easier for users with physical, sensory or cognitive challenges to navigate new technology.
As Candoo Tech’s client base and team expands, their founder is eager to take on new challenges and improve technological literacy for New York’s seniors.
“We’re at a point now where so much of our day-to-day lives is moving online, from requesting transportation to setting up doctor’s appointments and even getting your weekly groceries that making sure someone is comfortable enough to keep up is critical, and having that extra level of patience and customer services is critical to serving this community.”
Candoo Tech is currently available for users in the five boroughs and some parts of the tri-state area. Visit Candoo Tech at https://www.candootech.com/ .