Thursday, August 21, 2008

Believe Me ...

It's Never Too Late

In January I wrote about the Follow Me Home Initiative that involved teaching senior citizens how to use computers. That's a topic I know something about. For several years I was president of the computer club at our local senior center, and I helped launch the club’s popular class offerings and taught several classes. Most of my computer mentoring time lately has been spent with lifestory writers, and it’s thrilling to see how successful some are at turning to computers for telling their stories at ages many would not think possible. Several deserve special mention.

One is Paul Ohrman. Two and a half years ago, Paul signed up for a lifestory writing workshop I led at the Monroeville Public Library. He made a commitment to have the story of his first 85 years written by his 85th birthday, twenty-two months later. Paul had never used a computer, but after his wife showed him how to turn it on, within two weeks he had mastered margin changing, centering, changing the font, and all sorts of wonderful things many people never venture to try. Nobody taught him. He just clicked around and tried things to see how they worked.

Paul met his deadline, though it took another couple of months to finish the layout so he could order copies of his book for family Christmas presents. You can see the finished product, and even download it as a free eBook at It's definitely worth a look. By the way, Paul got hooked on life story writing. His second book, about his World War II experiences as an Army photographer in the war zone, is well under way.

Grandma Julia is another amazing example. She lives in the Philippines and left a comment on the blog about Spelling, which has attracted attention from around the globe. She is ninety years old, and just took up blogging. She writes eloquently, with great passion, in English, her second language. I urge you to pay her blog a visit. Her tales are timeless, and heart-warming.

Aunt Ruth is another success tale. She had been using her local library for e-mail for several years before she decided, at age 89, to buy her own computer. Uncle Walter’s health was failing and it was becoming increasingly difficult to find time to spend at the library. We found a good buy on a laptop, perfect for her tiny apartment, and placed the order. A friend helped her set it up. She quickly discovered that she can have a virtual afternoon in Paris on a whim, listen to opera, and have all sorts of adventures that had become difficult in person.

Last, but certainly not least, is my father. A couple of weeks ago I wrote that he has more cool tech toys than I do. He spends a good part of his time taking digital photos, some of them digital stereo. He’s not at the top of this list, because he's been using computers longer than the others. He became an Atari addict when he found one at a garage sale soon after he retired twenty some years ago. Today he is taking increased personal responsibility for keeping his own system tuned up, because My Brother, the Computer Guru is very busy. So, even though my father has been using computers for a couple of decades, his interest in staying on the cutting edge, and continuing to learn new things, is a great example.

It’s never too late to learn something new — unless you think it is — and learning new things keeps your brain healthy and growing. Writing is one of the best brain exercises, and learning new things about your computer while you create a written legacy of your life is icing on the cake.


Sharon Lippincot is the author of the books, The Heart and Craft of Lifestory Writing and The Albuquerque Years. Her passion is writing lifestories and memoir and helping others discover how to find and express their unique stories. This article first appeared on her blog, "The Heart and Craft of Lifestory Writing" which offers "tips, guidelines and observations to help ordinary people write extraordinary stories about their own life and experiences". I am republishing it here as my way of saying thanks to Sharon for taking notice of my work and for being there constantly to prod me on. It is also one way of affirming one of my life's guiding post - it is never too late to give new things a try.


  1. Dear Grandma Julia,
    thank you for the link on your blog. I feel honoured that you like my photos.
    "It is never too late" - that's something I try to tell my mother who is turning 81 soon all the time when she feels depressed about not being able to travel any more and doing other things. It is very hard to convince someone who thinks there is nothing more to gain at an age such as this. It makes me sad but I try my best to motivate her that life is not over as long as you live.
    Keep up the wonderful mood you have,
    warmest greetings,

  2. It is so nice to read about folks who have decided to get into computers. They are no longer bored. When they master just a little bit of it, the world opens up to them. I love teaching the elderly and watch the wonderment on their faces. thanks for sharing your experiences.

  3. Dear Grandma Julia, I definitely agree that "It’s never too late to learn something new — unless you think it is — and learning new things keeps your brain healthy and growing." Very often the limiting factor is always ourselves. There are so many fallacies associated with old age. Old age means movement will be slow to a crawl, the brain will not work properly, it's too late to learn something new and whatever the human mind can think off.

    Movement might be slower, but I have read story of how a 61 years old farmer inspired the whole nation: A Farmer who Inspired the Whole Nation (Part 1) and A Farmer who Inspired the Whole Nation (Part 2) The brain might not work properly? And yet through the post here, we see many examples: Paul Ohrman, yourself, Aunt Ruth and the author's father. Is it not evidence enough that one can make it happens no matter how old is one?

    Although there are some truths for most people, old age certainly doesn't mean the world stop moving. There is this quotation by Roosevelt Eleanor, which I have always liked to share with people, "Beautiful young people are the accident of nature and beautiful old people are the work of art." There is so much truth in this quotation. Many people are growing old everyday but how many are growing up?

    It is sad to hear someone saying, "I am too old to do that or to pick up something." And yet through this post today, I see a new possibility - to share with them that it is never too old and life can be as fulfilling. I believe that we must change the general belief that 'life slow to a halt' when one age.

    Thank you for sharing this fantastic post!

  4. A very inspiring post. It's wonderful what you are doing!

  5. I feel a bit frazzled when someone attempts to call my father "cute" for his interest in computers. Since retiring he's become way more savvy about computers and technology than I am, and for the past two years he and I have been operating a web site together. He's the kind of person who's fascinated by almost anything and afraid of nothing, and he's regarded retirement as a delicious opportunity to do all the things he didn't have time for before, including playing chess by computer with people in other countries and taking and teaching literature courses.

  6. When I visited an assisted living home recently, the manager noted that they are having to purchase more and more computers because the residents that are starting to live there, are more and more people who are computer literate. Also, my brother does volunteer work in an assisted living facility and his primary duty is teaching residents computer skills. A very popular activity, according to him.

  7. I think that what you are doing is wonderful.

    This is just an observation from a youngin', but it seems to me that how a person grows old is all about attitude. My father-in-law is only like 62, and he thinks that he's the oldest guy in the world, and his health seems to reflect that.

    My grandparents, on the other hand, are both in their mid 80's and are determined to stay young. They travel, dance, exercise, and learn new things regularly (they both love computers, and now are also getting into the cell phone rage). They are old and they just don't care what other people think of that. They live and enjoy themselves anyway, and it shows in their physical and mental health. When I grow old, I want to be just like them.


  8. What a great story. My great grandfather wrote his memoirs, and my grandmother typed them all out on a word processor. I am in the midst of converting them to reprint for my family. With the ease of self-publishing I hope lot's of people encourage their families to get that history down before it's lost forever.

  9. Wonderful to see that these people are learning something new and sharing their stories with others.

  10. I agree with this post 100%. I love hearing stories of people who don't let age - or anything else! - deter them from learning something new and expanding their scope of experience.

  11. This is an awesome post. Thank you for the links. I plan on checking out some fascinating new bloggers!

    Take care:)

  12. I hope this is not too off topic, but...

    I have over 1000 photos for bloggers to use free of charge.


    I hope this is of some use to you at some point, and that the instructions are clear enough to follow.


  13. I have a great Aunt that is 86 and she was first introduced to computer use at her church's senior center - it has opened her world up and re-sharpened her mind, she still drives albeit slow, and still has probably 96% of her faculties. I have no doubt her mental acuity has been aided by her computer use.

  14. This is a great blog, interesting content. I love the layout. Come visit my blog sometime at:

  15. Small world; I surfed in via EC and found this article. Turns out that my dad and Ms. Lippincott are good friends.

  16. Thank you for such a positive post about seniors. The commercials make me cringe when a child slows their speech to introduce technology to the "savvy enough to produce you" parents. We should be smarter than continuing these senior stereotypes. When the first PCs were available in stores, both my parents & I had to have the first ones. We are all still purchasing and supporting new technology!

    I love to hear about people sharing their history-what a priceless thing to leave future generations. That job sounds fantastic...sharing the tech-love!

  17. wow, i salute you for your efforts to help the senior citizens get into the computer. it is really great job and it would also be very helpful.

    i'll definitely check your links.

  18. What an amazing post! YAY! Good for you for sharing your passion - and promoting others.

    Claudia at Denver Cereal

  19. If we hadn't disbanded our "tribes" and relegated seniors to the sidelines, if they were still involved with child rearing as they should be, we wouldn't have to go back and teach them. They would continue to learn and be taught by the young, just as they teach and guide the young themselves.

  20. what an inspiration this people are. I wish that my mum would not be afraid to try this. She has mastered email, and is actually quite hooked both to that and to text messaging, but she thinks that she is too old to do anything else... might I point out that she is only 50.

    Which goes back to your comment "It’s never too late to learn something new — unless you think it is".

    Maybe with some encouragement from me, she might give this a shot.


  21. I love this post because it's so inspirational. I hope to never stop learning new things after I retire. I think it's really awesome for people in their 80s being able to use the computer. I'm sure my mom would have loved it and probably would have been a wonderful blogger if I had bought her a computer when she was still alive.

    I tried teaching my dad how to use it, especially to send email, but was unsucessful. Not because he didn't want to learn, but just because he had so many problems it was too difficult for him. Here is a link to a post that I wrote about it: