Pictured above: Abbie Richie with 100-year-old Louise Davis
Abbie Richie lost her job unexpectedly at the end of 2017, when the educational consulting firm she had worked for for 15 years closed. She had enjoyed her job, but she really wasn’t interested in returning to that line of work.
She sent out applications and wasn’t getting anywhere, so in the meantime, she decided to start helping people in an area she was good at – technology.
“I started by helping my in-laws,” says Abbie. “They were moving and they needed help getting their Wi-Fi up and running and their cable television set up.” Then one of Abbie’s good friends contacted her and asked if she could help her mom, who had recently moved, get her phone service and online accounts set up.
“One thing led to another, and I found myself doing a lot of technical support, which I’ve always done for friends and family over the years,” says Abbie. She moved to Arizona with her husband 11 years ago from San Francisco, CA, where she was involved with the technology boom there.
“I love seniors. I’ve always had a deep admiration and respect for my grandparents and my parents, and I have a lot of patience with people,” she says. “I find that they are often overlooked and undervalued, and there is so much vision that can be gleaned from them.”
As Senior Savvy Tech Support, Abbie goes to different senior living communities and offers free workshops on various topics like smartphone secrets or troubleshooting your Wi-Fi. She changes the topic every month, and if people need additional help after the workshop, they can book a one-on-one session with her.
“One of the workshops I offer is on password protection, that seems a concern,” she says. “I recommend two or three different online password protection apps or extensions. Or, if they want to keep it old school and write it down in a dedicated phone book ‘A’ through ‘Z.’ A for Amazon for instance.” This method works out well for many people and it’s something that they are familiar with.
Although she enjoys doing the workshops and meeting people, she prefers to meet one-on-one because many seniors are embarrassed by the things they want to ask. “Some of their questions are very personal – like having to do with pairing their hearing aid to a TV transmitter or personal device so that they can hear people better – they may not want to share that in a large group setting,” says Abbie.
The most requested item that Abbie gets asked to help with is smartphones. “A lot of people have questions about their smartphones – how to adjust their phone so that it will work for them,” she says. A common complaint is how to find photographs that their relatives have sent them and have “disappeared.”
Another common trouble-making device is the television remote control. “There are so many seniors that cannot work their remote controls,” shares Abbie. “They go from watching CNN on basic cable to using their smart TV features like Netflix. If you have to pick up one remote control to do one thing and another remote control to do another thing, there is a big divide there.” She has gone to the cable store before, but unless you are paying for the upper-level service packages, you are stuck with two remotes.
“I’m helping the person who is just trying to stay connected with the outside world – by watching TV, checking email, sending an attachment, communicating with their family –sometimes it’s just the simple things we take for granted, but some seniors are just not able to do them,” says Abbie.
She has noticed that many seniors are comfortable using iPads. They are intuitive to use, portable and an easy way for them to connect with family. The iPad has taken the place of desktop computers and a laptop in many cases.
“I have a lot of clients whose adult children give them an iPad, Fitbit or an Alexa and they may not have any idea how to use it, but their child wants them to learn how,” says Abbie. “Their children will contact me, and I will help instruct (their parents), so they have a better understanding of how they are going to incorporate that technology into their life.”
Abbie admits that she has been surprised by some of her clients who have wanted her help to set up Etsy accounts or Amazon seller sites. “They have products that they want to sell and books they want to publish,” says Abbie. She also has clients that have more smart technology in their homes than she does. They use Alexa or have smart extension outlets that allow them to turn on and off their lights from their phone.
Sometimes technology isn’t the only thing Abbie helps her clients with. “I have a client who needed help hanging up some pictures,” she recalls. “I realized that some of them don’t have their children living in the area, and I try to approach them like their daughter who lives down the street.”
She usually tells her clients to start an “Abbie list” and when they get two or three items written down, to give her a call.
“I’ve been so fortunate. This work has been wonderful, and I just love it,” says Abbie. “I love these people, and it continues to make me feel like I am with my grandparents, who are no longer alive. I spent so much time with them growing up. I adore my clients; they are the sweetest people.”
For more information on Senior Savvy Tech Support, contact 480-544- 7060 or visit facebook.com/seniorsavvy.net.