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elders_tech_7_16_homespunRISMEDIA, July 16, 2009-(MCT)-Kids these days!

Why can’t they download a video, set up a Facebook page, send out a text or communicate with their parents through a simple video phone service such as Skype?

Grandparents are often depicted as hardened technophobes, yet some are asking these very questions as they try to drag their adult children and grandkids into the 21st Century.

“I’m seeing it,” says Georgia Witkin a senior editor at

“The grandparents have the affluence, they have the time and they have the motivation” to pursue new technologies, particularly those that facilitate communication with the grandkids.

“This is an extension of play for them, whereas the parents are so busy driving the kids to games or trying to juggle work and baby-sitting that it’s a luxury for them.”

In general, young people are still more tech-savvy than seniors, but some surveys show that older Americans are narrowing the gap. According to the Pew Internet & American Life Project, 72 percent of adults 50-64 are now online, compared to 36 percent in 2000.

Recent interviews with 105 people 99 and older, conducted for Evercare by UnitedHealthcare, found that 21 percent went online, 12 percent used the Internet to share photos and 3 percent used Twitter.

Witkin, a grandmother of three, says that her own daughter, a mom and a lawyer, is a BlackBerry whiz but needs help in other areas: “When it comes to downloading things, so she can see outtakes of (videos) I’ve made of her with her friends, I get back messages almost every day: ‘I can’t open it.’ And then I get on the phone and I’m explaining how you do it.”

Maryan Pelland, 60, a freelance journalist ( who has written for publications including the Chicago Tribune, says that she was the one who suggested Skype when her daughter’s husband was deployed in Iraq.

The free service effectively turns your computer into a video phone – you and the person you’re calling can see each other on-screen as you talk.

“I showed it (to my daughter) and she was amazed,” says Pelland, who, in turn, was thrilled when her daughter mastered the technology. “It’s very nice to feel like I can still do something that (my kids) can’t,” Pelland says.

Sally Olds, 75, author of “Super Granny: Great Stuff to do With Your Grandkids” says that she was on Facebook, getting “poked” by her 16-year-old granddaughter, at a time when her daughter Nancy Olds was still resisting the trend.

Nancy Olds, a test developer at the Educational Testing Service in Princeton, N.J., who has since joined Facebook at the urging of a friend, confirms the basic chronology.

“(Mom) beat me to it,” she says.

(c) 2009, Chicago Tribune. Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.