The College Magazine - Summer 2001

Retired and Wired

by Nick Riddle

You don't have to work in IT to use it - that's the whole point of the Internet revolution. User-friendliness and easy access to a vast range of information are winning over the older generation. Most older graduates and former faculty who never encountered so much as a calculator in their IU careers are now converts to the Web. Computers, it turns out, are becoming a major feature of many people's retirement years. Three College-connected retirees confirmed as much for us.

-Marvin Carmack,
emeritus professor of chemistry, IUB La Posada Retirement Community, Green Valley, Arizona


The world is finally realizing that older people get a lot of satisfaction from computers and the Internet. I began using a personal computer while I was professor of chemistry at IU Bloomington. I used an Apple Macintosh because it was the only machine that would allow me to draw complex chemical formulas.

After a lifetime of working as an organic chemist, I'm always interested in new medicinal agents and new drugs. People sometimes ask me about a new drug, and I can look it up on the Web. I can also check the status of research on diseases and clinical trials.

I'm a member of the Green Valley Computer Club and one of a group of five who organized a computer club at our retirement community. We prevailed on the management, and they provided us with very fine equipment. Then there's the Camera Club, where we're involved in digital photography, and the Video Special Interest Group devoted to editing of digital movies. We cover the senior games here and edit the footage on a computer.

My foster son just returned to Asia, and I keep in touch with him easily via e-mail. I've noticed that people type e-mails the way they speak. Even people with a good education send e-mails without editing and correcting mistakes. I kind of like that. With old-fashioned letter-writing, you don't write for months, and when you sit down to start a letter you get bogged down immediately with trying to compose that first sentence apologizing for not having written for six months. With e-mail, people just seem to plug in and get on with it.
- Jim Brokaw, BA'50,
retired executive, Dow Chemical Cincinnati, Ohio


The computer has been a tremendous joy in my retirement. All of our five children are on e-mail, and that's wonderful for quick communications. I also use e-mail to communicate with various groups I'm a member of. There's our seniors group at church and a monthly luncheon group of retirees from Dow Chemical in Cincinnati. I keep a database of the members, and to those on e-mail I send reminders about the next luncheon date. Being able to keep in touch so easily is enriching: When you retire, you lose a lot of the support you had at work.

When I was at Dow Chemical, a young engineer transferred to Cincinnati and introduced me to the Macintosh. He was a real ambassador for the Mac in our facility - brought it in the back door, so to speak. I was reluctant initially. I had only a few years to retirement, and I didn't want to spend time learning to use this new thing.

But then I got hooked. When the Internet came in, I resisted getting involved in that too, but I was soon won over. I joined a local Mac user group, the Apple Ciders of Cincinnati, when I heard how they were using the Internet.

I've been on the Internet for almost three years now. I use it as a reference point, kind of like a library - there's such a wealth of information out there. I get the e-mail newsletters from the IU Alumni Association and the IU News Bureau. Last Christmas was the first time we ordered anything over the Internet. I also used the Web to register my vote on my stocks.

- Sheldon Cooper, BA'48,
former chairman, Tribune Entertainment Chicago, Illinois


I fought the whole idea of getting a computer for years. Then my family got together to buy me a computer as a gift for Father's Day. I even fought that for a year. Last Father's Day I finally agreed. I was in terror of this thing. I had a friend in the communications business who told me: "You're going to Kinko's." We went over there one evening and sat down at the computer they rent out for so many bucks an hour. He said, "Here's your keyboard. We're going to start." And it was the fastest two hours of my life. So it was just that one session, getting the equipment set up, and I was going.

I never wrote that many letters, but now I send e-mail a lot, mainly to family and old friends. I'm not adding to the great writings of the world, but it's a lot of fun. I use the Web for many things - I've traveled the world on it. Then there are bad jokes - too many bad jokes - and a lot of news. That can be scary. With so much news and information, you can become distressed about the whole world. But there are some fabulous things on the Web. There's a site called refdesk.com that lists reference sites of all kinds, links to sites that can tell you anything you ever wanted to know.

The Internet is changing the other media. Even TV visuals are beginning to look like Web pages. Before I had a computer, I didn't understand that mish-mash of graphics on TV - even though I worked in the industry for decades.

Why would I recommend it to other retirees? Well, one thing you have as a retiree is time, and using a computer takes a lot of time. And for people older than I, it's a good way to keep your mind out of trouble.


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