The Skype Solution for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing

The other day I was sitting in my neighborhood Starbucks surrounded by the chatter of conversation and people hunched over their laptops or newspapers. At one table, however, something remarkable was going on. A woman was sitting in an armchair, her laptop perched on a table in front of her. She was having an exuberant conversation — in sign language. Not a sound came from her except for an occasional guffaw, but her conversation was so animated you almost felt you …

Adult Children: Put the Phone Away and Let’s Talk

As a college professor, I made a radical decision about a year ago: I banned smartphones and laptops during class. Honestly, I can’t compete with Facebook or an Internet flash sale or texts from friends. My students now take their notes the old-fashioned way with pen on paper. And it turns out that students who take notes by hand learn better. Now I’d like to do the same with cellphones at home and social gatherings. The biggest generation gap is …

The Mother Lode

My daughters, Alexandra and Jennifer (right), sure hit the gene jackpot: As heirs to my beauty and fashion sense, my steely self-confidence, my quick wit and collection of Chanel bags, these are two lucky babes, let me tell you. Along with those desirable traits, though, I worry that I’ve passed along some questionable ones: We share an addiction to eye makeup, over-the-top bling and I-could-smell-you-coming-a-mile-away perfumes. Look up “subtle” in the dictionary and there’s not a Johnson family photo in …

Why Phoning Your Children Just Isn’t Enough

The medium is the message, Marshall McLuhan famously noted. And in a touch screen world, our relationships with our adult children improve with the more communications media we use. While millennials enjoy chatting on the phone or Skype, they also want parents to “lurk” on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and other social media so we can follow (not intrusively, though) their lives. That’s the finding of a study by University of Kansas doctoral student Jennifer Schon. “We found that young adults …

Tips for International Travel

Two back-to-back international trips this year — to Germany and South Africa — gave me a good reason to brush up on my world-traveler skills. Here are the main things I think about when I’m planning a trip abroad. Phoning home. How I am going to communicate? I mainly use Skype. It’s an easy, inexpensive way to make international calls. There are similar applications for phones, including Viber and WhatsApp, that allow you to text, call and send photos and …

Senior Centers, Part II: Line Dancing at Age 93

Video courtesy Microsoft/IN2L/Selfhelp You might have missed a piece I wrote earlier this month about senior centers’ efforts to woo baby boomers. (At 78 million-strong, this demographic is a membership director’s dream.) To attract the Forever Young Generation, some centers are dropping “senior” from their name and serving up hip offerings such as wine tastings, dating and divorce workshops and Pilates. Programming for what are considered traditional, older attendees is also changing. (It’s Senior Center Month, so I’m giving equal time to …