Cass Council on Aging hosts tech fair for seniors

Published 10:05 am Friday, March 8, 2019

CASS COUNTY — From 10 a.m. to noon on Thursday, seniors brought in their phones, tablets, laptops and other varieties of devices to receive help from techies who know best how to operate them. Five representatives from the Benton Harbor Best Buy store came to the Cass Council on Aging Lowe Center to provide instruction, tutorials and general direction on everything from phone apps to home appliances.

“I have this tablet that I’ve had for a while, and there’s Facebook and Facebook Lite. I don’t know which one to download. There’s messenger and messaging and texting, and it’s all confusing. I don’t want to download stuff that I’m not going to use, or download the wrong one,” Toni Janssen said.

“I just came to see if they could update my computer, or send me updates or anything like that,” Nanette Goins said.

Janssen’s and Goins’ needs were similar to those of many visitors on Thursday. With constant technological changes, software updates and countless apps to choose from, many seniors find it difficult to navigate their devices in an understandable way.

“Everything is changing all the time,” Janssen said. “I just want to make sure my stuff is protected.”

The representatives from Best Buy understood the needs and concerns thoroughly.

Along with attending community events like the one at the COA, they spend their days working with customers to address questions and find solutions that best suit their needs.

Gage Elkins, a Best Buy servicer and Geek Squad technician, said he spent Thursday working with visitors with a variety of issues on their devices, with everything from downloading apps to changing passwords.

“I’ve mainly helped them with how to use their devices from the get-go,” he said. “It’s basic use of the devices really. A lot of people get this stuff and don’t realize there’s more to it than just turning it on. You have to remember your passwords. You have to make an account for this, you’ve got to make an account for that.”

Tim Miller, manager of the Benton Harbor Best Buy store for about 18 months, said community outreach is as simple as making people’s lives better.

“We are making their lives better with technology. That is our whole goal of Best Buy, that is our company motto,” Miller said.

Miller has a heart for seniors in his role. He’s often confronted with the confusion of older generations that do not know how to operate their technology, but, to him, the solution comes back to education.

“A lot of younger and senior people get very confused about what’s possible, so we at Best Buy talk about what’s possible — what’s possible through a phone, what’s possible through the home, what’s possible through a laptop. We’re just trying to educate them through what’s possible and how to make their lives better through technology,” Miller said.

Another incentive for Best Buy to take time in the community for tech tutorials goes beyond simply helping older folks with phones and tablets. For the store workers themselves, community outreach allows them to focus their time in the store for other tasks and customer needs.

“This helps us clear up some of our time in the store in a way,” Elkins said. “At the store, we have very small windows to work with. We have appointments and reservations, and we have other responsibilities we have to take care of at the store. With stuff like this, we can dictate easier how we’re going to take care of customers.”

Elkins’ first piece of advice for anyone in regard technology management is ground level wisdom but relates to an issue he sees all the time in his work.

“Write down your passwords. Just write down your passwords,” he said with a laugh.