From Rabbit Ears to Smart TVs: Hoffman SummerWood Navigates Changing Tech

Hoffman SummerWood is a Jewish independent- and assisted-living community for residents 55 and older located in West Hartford. Residents enjoy a comfortable, safe, enriching lifestyle in an environment that respects and supports their various backgrounds, interests, preferences, and beliefs. Below, Hoffman SummerWood Vice President of Development and Marketing Madelene Francese tells us how some residents are navigating today’s ever-changing digital landscape.
The world of technology changes fast and can be quite intimidating. As most of us rush to keep pace with the latest tech trends, members of the Greatest Generation have had a front-row seat to change throughout their lives: rotary phones are now smart phones, high-powered computers have usurped paper and pencil, Kindles have replaced hardcover books, and emails have replaced letters and stamps. We spoke with Hoffman SummerWood residents to get their perspective on the technological advancements they have experienced and to learn how they have incorporated new technology into their lives.

Offline Is Where We Live!
Many of our residents agree with Judith and Millie when they say, “We are offline people!” According to Judith, she has made a conscious choice to retain her lifelong “lo-fi” skills and interests. Each night, she writes in her journal and reads hardcover books—there’s no Kindle in her apartment! Judith also continues to enjoy trips to the library. “The only difference is that I no longer find books using the Dewey Decimal System,” she explained. She also doesn’t shop online; Judith prefers the human connection she gets by visiting a store in person.

When we asked Millie for her perspective on today’s ever-changing technology, she smiled and said, “Millie is NOT thoroughly modern!” Grinning from ear-to-ear, Millie added that she's proud of her commitment to eye contact and personal interactions.

I Have to Check My Email?
If you ask Kayleen, another Hoffman SummerWood resident, she will tell you that COVID-19 had little effect on her digital communication use. She loves her iPhone—but only to make calls and play Solitaire. Kayleen was able to learn a bit about her iPad on her own, but she relies on her daughter to help with technical issues. And recently, Kayleen learned that having email means you have to check it! “I stopped receiving appointment reminders from my physician, and when I missed an appointment they called to inform me that all reminders are sent to my email," she said. "When I checked my email that day, I found many reminders. I guess I need a reminder to check my email!” she added with a chuckle. 

Zoom Kept Us Connected to Judaism
Both Edith and Annette appreciate the many technological advancements they have experienced, and both agree that Zoom has been the most important advancement in their lives: It allowed them to attend Shabbat services every week during the pandemic. Though they missed attending services in person, they were grateful that Zoom allowed them to participate.  

Nothing Short of Miraculous… But How Do I Do This Again?  
We spoke with many residents here at Hoffman SummerWood who truly appreciate—and employ—the many technological advancements developed in their lifetime. Joan adores her iPhone and says it has brought her into the 21st century. She consistently uses the calendar and messaging features and loves having a dictionary at her fingertips. She also finds Facebook to be a great source for photos. Joan doesn’t use the computer at all; she leaves that bit of technology to her husband, Len. When we asked her whether she’d like to have additional technology, Joan said, “I do not need any more new technology. What we all need is a volunteer to come in to help us when we have issues with our computers, iPhones, and iPads! We call our children or grandchildren for help, but a community technology mentor would help us feel more comfortable using all of these devices.” 

One thing is clear: all of our residents would appreciate your help troubleshooting their devices and learning how to use them more comfortably! If you are interested in becoming a technology mentor and helping Hoffman SummerWood residents with their phones, tablets, and computers, please contact Madelene Francese at 860.523.3994 or

Above: Emma, a Hoffman SummerWood resident, celebrates her 95th birthday in a video chat with family.