Now There’s A Lifeline For Seniors Struggling With The New Technology

Like everyone else, senior citizens have been forced into using the new technology to keep in touch during the pandemic.

But many have never used computers very much and are intimidated.

But now, a company to the rescue. Candoo Tech is just a phone call or the click of a button away both virtually and literally help older folks with their technological challenges.

I speak with Liz Hamburg, who started the company.

Listen to the podcast:

Here’s a transcript of our conversation:

Gary: It comes as no surprise to any of us, of course that because of the pandemic so many of us are at home. So many of us are separated from our families. So many of us are depending on all of the technologies that are available to us. It’s a godsend on the internet. In fact, right now, this interview that I’m about to conduct, we’re using Zoom to do the interview.

Normally previously to the pandemic, my guest and I would probably meet somewhere and which would have been lovely, and I would have stuck a microphone under her nose. And we would have conducted the interview face to face; can’t do that now, social distancing. And it dawned on me that there are a lot of older folks who never used any of these things that many of us take for granted. They’ve never been on Zoom. They may never have been on Facebook, they may never have Facetimed anyone. And they are therefore if they can’t use these tools, they are isolated. And that’s just horrible.

They’re not just isolated from goods and services. They’re isolated from children and grandchildren.

Well, Liz Homburg, who is an entrepreneur, she’s formed this company, that’s just amazing. It’s called Candoo, like I can do it. And basically, Liz, you’ve got real live folks that help real live folks connect on the internet if they don’t know how to do it. Liz, welcome, and thanks for doing this with us.

Liz: I do. Hi, Gary. It’s so good to hear from you. And yes, this has been such a terrible time for so many people. But what has really come to light is that technology has gone from a nice to have to a must have. Someone said to me technology is the new toilet paper. You can’t live without it. And for so many older adults, many people in general, but particularly older adults, there is a real fear of technology. We’ve seen people with their hands shaking, they say their heart starts beating rapidly. And it’s like a visceral reaction and no one knows why.

But we have been able to, using our specially trained tech concierges, so many people comfortable no matter what level they are, if they are a complete newbie, or if they’re if they’re regular, and get them comfortable with their technology because it really is so critical. And you’re right our name is Candoo Tech and we love to say you can do it and and we can help.

Gary: Like I said in the introduction, I hadn’t even given this very much thought but I remember my parents when they got on the internet.
They’re they’re now deceased. But when they got on the internet years ago, it was for one thing and one thing only. Email. If you asked my mom or dad to do anything else on the internet, they were just totally perplexed. So I imagine I guess folks who are listening, if a person is such a newbie to the technology, suddenly now they want to talk to their grandchildren, for example, or they want to do a doctor’s appointment remotely because the doctor is limiting the number of people who come into the into the office. How do you do that? If you don’t know how to do that?

Liz: That’s right. That’s absolutely right. It’s about being able to connect. Social isolation has the same health effects as smoking 15 cigarettes a day now. Imagine so with so many people isolated, it’s really become a health problem and technology can really help. So we have specially trained tech concierges, they’re all experts in technology. Many of them came from the Geek Squad or Apple Genius Bar. But we are training them specifically on how to work with this population.

So we’ve got geriatric experts, we’ve got audiologists, we’ve got cognitive enrichment specialists. Our tech concierges connect remotely to our clients. So it’s a really simple, you know, one click button. You can they call first on the phone and they explain how to how to connect with us remotely. And then when they walk someone through a visit and it could be to either help set up something new or it could be to help with a problem like I’ve forgotten password or I need to download something or I need to get on to my doctor’s portal or I want to just learn how to Zoom or learn how to play cards online.

Our tech concierges use really simple patient, easy to understand
explanations. You’re pretty tech savvy Gary. But imagine for someone where the normal tech support guy would say, open up a browser window. And we hear so many times what the heck is a browser window? But instead of that, we’re saying, you see that little round thing on the bottom of your screen that has a little compass on it? Click on that.

And so we’re really trying to create very simple ways for people to feel empowered by their technology.

Gary: I don’t know if you ever saw the Jackie Chan bit on Saturday Night Live when he’s playing the IT tech at the office and he’d get the call and walk up there and push the person aside and type on the keyboard and say, “Now was that so difficult?” You can’t have that attitude. And you use the word patience. And I would imagine the other word that you imprint on the brain of your employees is gentle.

Liz: That’s right. And our tech concierges are gentle. They’re amazing. Many of them had different careers. So they’re all experts. We have one guy who’s a Broadway musician. We have someone else who’s an artist. We have someone else who is in his late 60s himself and he was a professor of technology. And so they all have this sort of right brain left brain thing going on, where they can communicate, like they’re real, people. They’re not just asking just about your machines, but they’re able to really connect with our clients in a way that is really meaningful.

We’re talking to people now who, many of them, don’t see anyone on a regular basis. We have some clients in rural areas where the only person they see is the person who’s dropping off their groceries once a week. And so they’re looking for ways to connect in a very human way. But at the same time, they need help with their technology.

Gary: You and I both know people in New York City who haven’t left the confines of their of their small apartments, much less a home in rural areas. So it affects people everywhere in this country I think.

Liz: Absolutely. We’ve heard so many amazing stories where we have someone in Florida who literally was using a flip phone, she’s in her mid 80s, she was refusing to get into the 21st century. She never had email. She would still clip her newspaper articles and go to the post office every day and send clippings to her children. And her son finally said, I’m done with this, I’m getting you an iPad. He signed her up for our service.

Our members get two 90 minute sessions and then unlimited quick support. So when they have those quick questions, they can call us instead of calling their children. And in just a couple of sessions, she was able to learn how to use her iPad in such a way that she’s now on family Zoom. She was on a Zoom for Thanksgiving. She was on a Zoom for her granddaughter’s graduation. She actually is an artist. So she even was able to have someone help her set up a website. And she’s now taking pictures of all her art and uploading it herself. And this was someone who literally had never even had an email address until like two months ago.

Gary: You’re talking about and I’m talking about all the the benefits of getting connected. And obviously there are amazing unlimited benefits. But we all know that there’s a dark side to being on the internet. At work there’s not a week that goes by that our security folks don’t send us a tip or actually, they’ll send us lessons that we have to go through so that they are sure that we understand what we must do to protect our company computers.
And it’s not just protecting our computers from malware intrusion. It’s also, especially as we grow older, protecting us from scammers. Now, can you help us with that?

Liz: Absolutely. I’m really glad you pointed that out. Because especially as we get into the holiday season that is so important. So we have sort of two approaches.

One is an educational approach. So it’s great to let people know and remind them if you get a call from someone saying I’m Microsoft or Amazon or I’m the IRS, don’t let them into your computer. That is one thing. That is number one rule. One of the advantages of having Candoo Tech for our members, we say look, call us if you have any questions, just don’t let a stranger in if you have any questions or you get an email that says click on this link, forwarded it to us or call us and we’ll tell you if it’s real or not. And frankly, nine out of 10 times it’s not. So, there’s a preventative side.

And then there’s what to do if you have been scammed. And so we do have a protocol that we follow to to get rid of malware. Unfortunately, it does happen and happens to really smart people to successful people to with it people. It doesn’t matter.

And there’s been some really horrible stories. Weheard from someone in Dallas, where she got a call from someone saying they were from Microsoft. She let him into her computer. He started scamming away and downloading everything. And then he said that she needed to pay him in gift cards. So she went running to her local store and it was actually a cashier at the store that said to her, “who are you buying these gift cards for?” And she said, “Oh, I can’t really say.” And the cashier said, “You know what, you’re the 10th person who’s come in this week, buying these gift cards, I bet that someone just told you they’re Microsoft.”

This was heartbreaking. And it happened. She was a smart woman. And it just happens all the time. But the good news is, we generally can get the malware off a computer, and we can at least walk you through and tell you exactly what to do to clean that up if that does happen.

Gary: My best friend in Detroit, he is 80 years old, he is still an active very, very active attorney. And of course, now he’s forced to use Zoom to conduct meetings and arbitration and court hearings and stuff like that. He doesn’t even have a computer at home. So there are just a whole group of people who are very smart, very savvy, that just never embraced the technology; didn’t see a need to before, but now because of the pandemic, they’re forced to. And I gotta tell you, this is this could be a lifesaver. I think what you’re doing for a lot of people.

Liz: It is. We’ve heard so many wonderful stories. And I will say in addition to fear or frustration, there are also medical reasons and accessibility reasons why a lot of people don’t feel comfortable. And so our tech concierges are trained, for example, to connect hearing aids. I don’t know if you know, but you can connect hearing aids now to your iPad, or to a tablet or to your phone or to your Smart TV. So you can actually get that sound directly coming from a device or, for example, if you’re on a Google Hangouts, which is kind of an equivalent of Zoom. But with Google, you can have simultaneous closed captioning that’s automatic. So if we were having this conversation using a Google Hangout, or there’s other things as well, but that’s just one example, you would see my simultaneous closed captioning as I’m talking.

So there’s some really interesting things that we can do even small things like adjusting font size or if you have macular degeneration, you should put a black screen with white font. It’s little things like that that just make it so much easier to use your technology, but very often, people are not aware of it.

Gary: Boy, this sounds sounds amazing. So how do folks, because I know there are folks who could be listening are gonna say, I need to reach out.
What’s the best way to reach you folks?

Liz: You can reach us at or you can call us at 646-758-6606. And we are operating nationwide. And we’re working directly with families. And we’re working with senior living facilities and other nonprofit groups around the country. And we can set up devices.

If you’re thinking about getting a device for your family member for the holiday, we can help advise you on what to get and then help set it up with all the latest content and really customize things as well as accessibility features. So we’re doing set up and ongoing support and then lessons which are so important.

Gary: Well, we just went through a very contentious political campaign and there was a lot of negativism in the advertising and in the commentary from people on both sides of the aisle. And I’m so happy we’re doing this interview because it reminds us that we still have this entrepreneurial spirit here in the United States where there are folks like yourself, who see a need and say, Oh, wait, why don’t we do this to meet the need? And that’s exactly what you have done. Liz, thank you very much for doing this.

Liz: Thank you so much. Yeah, absolutely. And we need these positive messages today. And I’ll just end by letting you know about Bill. Bill is living in a senior living facility. He had an iPhone, but had never used it, no idea how to use it. And his adult daughter called and said he desperately needed to get photos to his doctor and she couldn’t get in to help him. So one of our tech nicians was able to get into Bill using a remote software and connect with him, showed him how to take photos, emailed them to his doctor. And at the end of the visit, Bill said, “You know what? Today’s my 105th birthday.” So if Bill can do it, anyone can do it. And that’s that’s the that’s the story that we want to share with people.

Gary: I love it. Liz Hamburg, thank you very much, and I hope we’re in touch again in the future.