Technology? Boomers have had enough

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Call it fear. Call it function fatigue.

Either way, an increasing number of baby boomers say they’ve had it up to here with new technology.

Some try to say they can’t master the small, complicated gadgets that young people love so. Others say they won’t even make an attempt without proof that wading through the thick manuals and squinting at small buttons will be worth it.

“I am not a Luddite (resistant to change). I have fancy computers. I have a fancy cell phone,” says Ingrid Cummings, 49, who runs a communications business and teaches at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis.

“It’s just certain pieces of technology I’ve never been convinced of the need to upgrade.”

Indeed, baby boomers are hard to convince, says Neil Charness, a psychology professor at Florida State University. One reason is that younger people learn faster than older people, he says.

Auri Rahimzadeh, vice president of The Indianapolis Computer Society and owner of an IT consulting firm, says the problem often is fear of trying something new.

“Every aging person I’ve spoken with generally agrees that, once they’ve used technology, they tend to use it and pretty much enjoy it,” Rahimzadeh says via e-mail.

Electronic and high-tech devices are seen as “tools” rather than “resources” by older people, says Rahimzadeh. They use new devices to replace older ones, not to do entirely new and exciting things.

For example, cell phones can take video, download podcasts and do much more, but many older people still see them as Dick Tracy-type phones that don’t need a landline.

Ditto for computers “” you use them for e-mail instead of snail mail, or for surfing the Web instead of subscribing to National Geographic.

Jack Baldwin, owner of Jack Baldwin Computers in Carmel, Ind., says it’s probably best for such people to start simple and stay simple.

“You can’t learn how to use a computer that comes with a 500-page book that’s filled with techie terms,” he says.

Here are some gadgets that will help cut the learning curve:

Cell phone

You can’t get much simpler than this. Seriously, a Fisher-Price toy phone is harder to use.

The Jitterbug Dial is made for people who can’t stand squinting at tiny buttons and deciphering hieroglyphics just to make a call.

This no-frills cell phone is bigger than most flip-style phones, and it comes with a large numeric keypad and bright screen.

Instead of green and red buttons to push to begin and end a call, the Jitterbug sports buttons that say “yes” and “no.” And instead of icons, the phone asks questions, such as: “Do you want to check your voicemail?”

The Jitterbug even has a dial tone, and if you can’t hear it, you can’t place a call. Forget figuring out how many “bars” of power you have.

Samsung makes the Jitterbug, and it’s best to buy it online ( You’ll pay $147 for the phone, in addition to a service plan of your choice, ranging from 30 minutes to 300 minutes a month.

GPS navigation system

If you’re already lost, your in-car navigation system shouldn’t lose you, too.

The Magellan Maestro 4040 is one of the most user-friendly portable navigation systems on the market. It has a 4.3-inch color screen that you control with your finger, like an ATM.

Some of the on-screen buttons are small, but the Maestro 4040 makes up for that with an audio confirmation of every selection. So, if you type in “Meridian,” the navigation system will spell out the word audibly as you hit each letter. The same goes for numbers, such as ZIP codes, and the names of menus on the system, such as “AAA Points of Interest” or “AAA Roadside Assistance.”

In addition, the Maestro 4040 offers audible turn-by-turn directions with street names to most destinations in the United States and Canada. The maps can be shown in 2-D, like a regular paper map, or in 3-D, similar to what a bird would see while flying over a city.

Magellan Maestro 4040 is available at consumer electronics retailers and online ( for $499.

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