Transforming lives through digital literacy.


A few Decembers ago I spent the holidays helping to take care of an elderly woman. She was very sick and could not be at home. She was scared and sad and angry. Instead of sitting in her living room, she lay in a hospital. Friends and family came to visit, but, mostly, sick strangers surrounded her.

This woman, in her 90s, is not so sure about computers and email and Skype. This woman has seen lots of changes in lots of technologies that she has embraced. However, she just can’t be convinced that a Gmail message beats a handwritten letter. I can see her point. Email has its place, but very little, in my opinion, beats a receiving a handwritten letter.

This woman, however, is very sure of how she feels about Danny Kaye and, for that matter, Rosemary Cloony. One day, hanging out in the hospital, trying to take our minds off illness and not being at home, we chatted about movies. Specifically holiday movies. She could name everyone in the cast of every movie we named, but couldn’t remember the lyrics to the song-and-dance number “Sisters.” I was no help. I was no help, that is, until I flipped open my laptop (to a certain amount of protest) and got the scene up on YouTube. We watched. We sang along. She smiled. We kept humming for the rest of the day.

It’s a little thing, showing someone a two-minute clip on YouTube, but, if you’re feeling down, that two minutes takes you back to happier times. That gives you music and memories, and (in this case) a little Hollywood magic can be a whole lot.

The holidays are, notoriously, a difficult time for many older adults. People often feel isolation and fixed incomes more acutely. Digital technology can, however, provide some remedies to the holiday blues. Here are some ideas that might bring a little glow not just to the screens, but also to the hearts of people of all ages.

  • Send e-cards.
  • Look up recipes (even if you are just window shopping, so to speak).
  • Suggest recipes.
  • Listen to music (from pop songs to Handel, you can find it all on the web).
  • Find out how to make a wreath out of old plastic bags or do all sorts of other crafts.

If all that has worn you out, watch a movie.

So, if you are alone for the holidays or reaching out to someone who is alone for the holidays, do consider taking a look at the world of the web and the little joys it can bring.

Finding Little Joys During the Long, Dark Winter

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Kathryn Kruse