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Technology 101: Understanding the Basics

Updated: Oct 20, 2023

Senior woman using laptop and phone.

There have been numerous technological advances in the past century including solar power, electric cars and touch-screen devices. Understandably, it could be very overwhelming having to learn the newest inventions to keep up to date about current worldly topics and trends. Even the most seasoned tech users know it takes time and patience when learning a new device or application (also known as “App”). Within this article, we will explain the many technological advances that have become widely used across the planet, in hopes of assisting aging adults to understand a little better the technology available for them to use at their disposal.

Search Engines A Search Engine is a software system accessible through your web browser (Safari, FireFox, Google Chrome, Internet Explorer). Each search engine offers a range of unique features that extend more than just a search bar. Google – The most popular search engine today is: Google. It is simple to use and you can research any topic in the search bar and be presented with millions of results but, of course, the websites or articles that are most relative to your search will come first. In addition to being able to search any topic, Google also provides the very popular and free email service known as Gmail(

Features you may find on Google: Images, Videos, News, Maps, Flights, Shopping, Email, Documents + more! Bing – The second most popular search engine is a software created by Microsoft called Bing. It is extremely close to what Google has to offer but with less traffic to its website. MSN is the affiliated web portal meaning Outlook( is the email of choice.

Features: Images, Videos, News, Maps, Shopping, Email, Travel + more!

Yahoo! – This is an internet web portal that incorporates the features of a search engine and a World Wide Web directory. Yahoo!’s landing page (the first page you land on when accessing comes equipped with several current news articles, weather, current game scores among several other features. Yahoo! has their very own free email service too known simply as Yahoo! Mail(

Features: Images, Videos, News, Email, Weather, Daily Horoscope, Scoreboard + more!

Hint: No matter which email service you decide you want to sign-up and create a new account with, you are still able to email family and friends that have accounts with other email services.

Social Media Platforms

Social media platforms have become increasingly popular within the last couple of decades. The main objective of social media is to create a place for families, friends, coworkers, neighbors and everyone alike to have the opportunity to be connected, share life updates and participate in social networking anywhere in the world.

Facebook – The top-used social media platform is Facebook. This offers a place where you can share life updates, photos, videos, personal opinions, information and chat back and forth with family and friends. This is a platform accessible via desktop or on a smartphone or iPad.

Features: Marketplace, Watch, Gaming, Events, Groups, Live Videos, Messenger + more!

Instagram – This is a free photo and video sharing app created to keep friends and family connected. Although primarily used as an App on a smartphone, you can also access Instagram via desktop. There are many creative features to Instagram including photo and video editing.

Features: Explore, Filters, Instagram Stories, Instagram Live, Editing Tools, Shop, Reels + more!

Learn more in our article: Instagram 101

Twitter – The platform that has been around as long as Facebook is: Twitter. This is a platform that was designed to connect friends, family and complete strangers and be a place to share your thoughts. This is a unique platform that only allows posts to be no longer than 140 characters long. It can be accessed via a desktop or as an app on a smartphone.

Features: Explore, “What’s Happening” Headlines, Messages, Retweets + more!

Tiktok – Tiktok is fairly new to the social media scene. It is a platform created for users to share short-form videos of any topic or at any rate of randomness. The videos can range in time from 3 seconds to 10 minutes. There are many editing tools and features that make creating videos on this app enjoyable.

Features: Tiktok Live, Editing Tools, Filters & Effects, Stitch, Duet + more!

Streaming Sites

If you ever want to watch a video or movie online there are a number of streaming sites you can access for free or pay to have a monthly subscription for more inclusive access. When you pay for a subscription you have access to hundreds of new and old videos, shows, documentaries and movies. The best part is there are no ads or commercials! YouTube – This is an online video streaming site that was released in 2005. This site offers free access to millions of user-uploaded videos and content as well as partnered sponsorships and much more. YouTube offers a Premium subscription option which gives you ad-free access as well as the ability to download videos, among other aspects. This is available on desktop or downloadable in the App store. Feature: Videos, Shorts, Movies and Tv Shows (Rent or Own), Live, Playlists, Personal Channel + more! Netflix – This is a popular movie and tv streaming platform that was established in 1997. There are hundreds of movies, tv shows and documentaries that are accessible after signing-up with a monthly subscription. Most of the options are classic and mainstream but others are uniquely produced by Netflix. Available on desktop or downloadable in the App store. Features: Trending Now, Continue Watching, Top Picks for Your Name, Interactive Videos, Genre division + more!

Hulu – A similar streaming site to Netflix that is only differentiated by its features, Hulu is subscription-based and offers different options for movies, tv shows and documentaries. Plus, depending on your subscription, you can stream 75+ On-Demand and Live TV channels. What may be offered on Hulu may not be offered on Netflix and vice versa.

Features*: Live TV, Ad-free options, ESPN+, Disney+, Starz, HBO Max, Showtime + more!

Amazon Prime Video – A subscription-based streaming site that offers its users access to thousands of tv shows and movies, including several original titles you will not find on any other streaming platform. Besides being a stand alone service, this is also one of the various features offered when you enroll in Amazon Prime’s yearly subscription. Features: Live Sports, Channel Add-ons, Sharing Capabilities, Host a Watch Party + much more!

Disney+ – A subscription-based streaming site that has been released by Disney giving viewers access to classic Disney movies with just a click of a button. Similar to every other streaming site, what Disney+ offers may not be offered on other streaming sites and vice versa. Features: Disney Originals, Marvel, Star Wars, National Geographic + more!

Delivery Services Having become more popular due to the Covid-19 lockdowns that began in 2020, delivery services have continued their momentum in shaping the future of grocery shopping and food and restaurant delivery services as well as everyday household items that arrive fast to your doorstep.

Doordash, Uber Eats, GrubHub – These are all food delivery services that are accessible via desktop or downloadable from the app store. Browse hundreds of restaurants, fast-food shops and convenience stores to place an order for pick-up or delivery. Each business has a menu and description which helps you choose what you would like to order and then either be delivered to your house or be available for pick-up. What differentiates the three companies is the quality of service, how easy it is to navigate the website or app and what food options are available. What is offered at GrubHub may not be offered on Uber Eats and vice versa.

Features: Delivery, Pick-up, Delivery Tracking, Order History, Schedule Delivery + more!

Amazon – The most popular delivery service in the world that can have products delivered directly to your doorstep in as little as 24 hours. You can access their services via desktop or in the Amazon App. There are millions of products and services available to you.

Features: Amazon Prime, Schedule Delivery, Subscriber Discounts, Easy Returns, Amazon Renewed Store + more!

Smart Devices

This is a term that refers to all electronic gadgets that understand simple commands that help users with daily activities around the house. These gadgets could be wired or wireless and are connected to networks throughout your home.

Video Streaming Devices – Roku, Apple TV and Google Chromecast are all examples of video streaming devices that have become popular to use and can be easily installed to your TV. You can purchase them online or in common stores like Target or Best Buy. It’s a small device that is plugged into your television and it gives you easy access to streaming services like Netflix, Hulu or Amazon Prime.

Smart TV – Samsung, Sony and Roku are examples of brands that offer Smart TVs. A Smart TV is a television with built-in features and apps. You can browse the web, listen to music or watch your favorite streaming site. These TV’s come equipped with an all-in-one remote which means you have a button that says “Netflix” which can take you directly to the app when pressed rather than searching for it on your TV.

Smart Speakers – There are many devices available on the market today that can assist you in any room of the house just by voice command. The Echo Dot, Google Nest or Apple Home are all names of smart speakers. They vary in features but have the same base attributes of which they can play music and listen to your verbal commands. They also come with virtual assistant technology (Alexa, Google Assistant or Siri). Need to set a timer? Simply say “Hey *name of device*! Set a timer for 10 minutes”. Have guests over and you would like to play music? Say, “Hey *name of device*, play songs by Creedence Clearwater Revival”. You also have the option to connect smart devices together with other smart devices.

Surveillance Devices – It is always important to stay safe and that may involve installing a simple surveillance system that’s accessible via your smartphone or desktop. There are several options for surveillance devices including the Ring Doorbell, Google Nest Doorbell, Amazon Blink. They offer 24/7 video camera access to your front door or any part of the house where you install the doorbell. You can even connect additional, installable cameras to your surveillance app of choice. Or you may opt to only use the mountable wall cameras instead of a doorbell with a camera.

I know that was a lot to soak in, but technology doesn’t have to be a nightmare to learn. We hope this article helped clear up some confusion and helped narrow down some decision-making. Within the coming weeks, we will release more articles that dive in deep to the features and how to use specific sites and their services plus a lot more! If you’re in a hurry to learn about one of these mentioned social media platforms, sites or services, check out your local senior center to see when their next available technology class is.


If you enjoyed this article, check out more like it in our senior lifestyle blog: here. Or, find your next dinner recipe: here!

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