Connecting Seniors and Families Through Technology (with transcript)

Connecting Seniors and Families Through Technology (with transcript)

Bill Vicary is the founder/ president of Vicary Management Group, LLC (VMG) in Greenville, SC. He created Just Call Bill, Technology Service Provider to Senior Adults in 2017. He has developed classes & programs to teach seniors on how to use technology to become better connected to their family and friends. In addition to his programs, Just Call Bill also provides technology move-in and IT services to seniors in their homes. His passion is to connect family and friends by utilizing technology.


Frank Samson:              Well, welcome to Boomers Today. I'm your host, Frank Samson. Of course, each week we bring you important and useful information on issues facing Baby Boomers, their parents, and other loved ones. And I just want to thank everybody for all their support. Our listeners are growing. We have a lot of ways that you can listen to the show. Some of you might be hearing us right now on a radio station because our show has been syndicated on various radio stations throughout the country.

And again, thank you. I think our listeners are growing because we have so many wonderful guests and great information to share, and we have another great guest with us today. We have Bill Vicary. Did I do that right, Bill?

Bill Vicary:                    Yes, you did, Frank.

Frank:                           Oh, okay. Bill Vicary, who's the founder and president of Vicary Management Group in Greenville, South Carolina. He created "Just Call Bill," Technology Service Provider to Senior Adults. He started it in 2017. He has developed classes and programs to teach seniors on how to use technology to become better connected to their family and friends. In addition to his programs, Just Call Bill also provides technology move-in and IT services to seniors in their homes.His passion is to connect family and friends by utilizing technology. Bill, thank you so much for joining us on Boomers Today. Really appreciate it.

Bill:                              Thanks, Frank. Appreciate being here.

Frank:                           Yeah. So, you've told me kind of your passion, which is connecting seniors and families through technology. Why don’t you give us an overview of what you’re doing. 

Bill:                              Sure. This all kind of started as way back when I, in my corporate days, was handed an iPhone 4 and we had to turn in our Blackberries, and we all looked at each other and said, "What do we do and how do we use them?" I quickly became the neighborhood go-to for older citizens seeking help on how to use their iPhones. This carried on for a while until I started to think, "Well, why do they keep coming to me? Well, why isn't there somewhere they could go," "they" meaning seniors, "for help?"

                                    And then the more research I did, the more I found there are very few places to go. So, the entrepreneurial brain kicked in gear and I said, "Well, why don't I create a curriculum to teach seniors how to use their smartphone and their tablets?" Specifically the Apple products because I think they're more intuitive. But what I also found is that families, especially seniors, were experiencing what I call the "technology tug of war." And what that is, is that they ask someone younger, it could be a family member or whomever, and they say, "Can you show me..." whatever that might be.

Well, that person usually grabs their phone, they do whatever they do, and they hand it back to them. And the senior has this puzzled look and they say, "Well, what did you do? You did it too fast and I don't understand. "So, this begins the tug of war because now that younger person takes that phone back and over a period of time, could be right then or over several days or hours, but both people become very frustrated. The senior's frustrated because they don’t understand rapidly enough, and the younger person's saying, "Why don't you get it? I've shown you 14 times." And so what happens is they both throw their hands up in the air and they walk away, and the senior never got to learn what they wanted to know in the first place.

Frank:                           Right. Boy, I've seen that almost too many times. So, I'm sure people listening are kind of chuckling in a way because they've been through it. So, what's your approach? What's your approach if you're... And who are you mainly hired by? Usually hired by the seniors themselves? Or the adult children?

Bill:                              I'm usually hired by the seniors. I do this a couple different ways. I can do it in a one-on-one session or at a senior community, at a senior center, pretty much anywhere where seniors gather. I've done it with church groups. I’ve figured out how to break down understanding the smart phone into smaller segments that are easier for seniors to understand.

                                    I try to limit the class sizes to about 15 to 20 people because it's very hands-on. So, right now, it has been hands-on, but I'm working on some virtual things that we can maybe talk about later. But I want to see their faces, I want to have them ask questions, I want them to be very interactive. So, when I watch them and their faces are kind of scrunched up and have that dazed and confused look, I can say, "What's going on?"

And like, "Well, no, I don't have settings on my phone." "Well, no, yes, you do." And the key, what I teach them and literally over that long period of time, and it's not all at once, it's in 45-minute to an hour segments, is I only teach them what comes on their phone.

The very last class is when we talk about apps and the cloud, because what I want to do is build their confidence in navigating their phone because they're always worried about, "Well, what if I press this?" Or "what if I get scammed?" Or "what if..." So, by the time we're finished, I've led them down the road of confidence with their technology, that they now want to do all the cool, fun stuff like putting Boomers Today app on their phone.

Frank:                           Okay, got it. So, you're mainly working with them on the phone? So, if they have a... Let's say they own a laptop or they have an iPad. Are you also giving them training on that? Or would you say the bulk of it is done on the phone itself?

Bill:                              It's done on the phone and the tablet. And it's interesting because, especially with the Apple products, they're pretty seamless and very consistent. And most don't realize that the iPad navigates exactly like their iPhone. And the cool thing is we sync them together and then it's seamless. I haven't done any teaching on the computer, but when we offer the IT support, then some of the techs can go in and say, "Oh, geeze, here's how you set up a file folder."

It's basically retirees that, all of a sudden, they forgot some of the stuff they used in the corporate world and a reminder of "how do I use Word again?" Or "setting up my Excel file" or what have you.

Frank:                           So, if you're dealing with a group, I'm sure their level of understanding is going to be different from person to person, so where do you start when you have a group of people?

Bill:                              So, I start very... That's a great question because as I tell them, when I'm in a group, I said, "I can't assume what you know or don't know. So, please be patient and we're going to go at a speed that..."

And by watching them, then I can speed up or slow down. But I've literally had people come to my classes where they're taking their phone out of the box for the very first time and don't know how to turn it on. And then I have ones that say, "Well, geeze, I just bought this new iPhone 11 Pro and I want you to show me how to use it." But very quickly, you realize none of the... I would say the majority are not power users or experts. They just want to be... navigate it quickly and effectively and have that ability to connect to their family.

Frank:                           Yeah. So, I'm always amazed, and maybe I'm the one that's wrong on this, but I'm always amazed when I still see people that have landlines in their home, okay?

Bill:                              Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Frank:                           And obviously, I mean, I would think the main reason they have a landline is your cell service is just horrible, all right? But if your cell service is good and I ask them, I say, "Why do you still have a landline?"

                                    "Well, what about an emergency? If I have an emergency, how are they going to get me?" Or "how do they know?" So, can you address that? Do you feel that somebody, an elderly person should have a landline, again for emergency reasons? Or are there other options that people are unaware of?

Bill:                              Sure. And that's a great question because when I teach, and this is one of the topics that comes up, is about landlines and your cellphone bill and what have you. But when it relates to landlines, I'll ask people, I literally do a poll in the room: How many of you have a landline? And it's usually 40% to 60% have one.

And then my next question is "why?" And they'll look at me and it's usually two reasons. One, the one you just said: "Well, in case of emergency, I need to have this." And then the other one is "I've always had one." So, then I go to the whiteboard and I draw a little picture. I said, "So, we're all of the age of these Boomers." And I said, "We all... There was the day of the telephone pole and the line that came into the pole with your phone on the wall."

And I said, "Back in the day, when we had a thunderstorm and the power went out, your phone always worked. And then I erase all that and I erase the telephone pole, and now I show cable, that most of them don't realize that their landline is a voiceover IP internet phone. So, when your power goes out, nothing works. No phone, no internet, no television, and no lights.

Frank:                           Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Bill:                              And so now, all of a sudden, they become enlightened and somebody will say, "Well, why didn't somebody tell me that?" And I said, "Well, it's not that they're being deceptive, it's just I guess they think most people know." But I always preface this by saying, "It's a personal choice." I had one lady tell me, she said, "If it cost me $1,000 a month, I'd keep my landline." And I was like, "Wow," because the other part of this I look at is you can save money by not having a landline. A lot of the cable companies will want you to have the bundle with the phone, internet, and television, but you can save probably $10 to $15 a month if you opt out of the phone. But there's some that just don't want to do that because they've always had that landline.

Frank:                           So, if somebody does call 911 from a cellphone, can... I know on a landline, my understanding is that they can track and determine exactly where you're at, okay? Is that the case with a cellphone?

Bill:                              It depends on where you are, but typically they'll ask you the address.

Frank:                           Right.

Bill:                              And when you dial 911, if you happen to hang up, you'll always get a return call. I was actually showing my brother some features on his phone about medical emergency and he happened to hit the emergency button, and he quickly hung up. And 10 seconds later, the phone rang and said, "This is 911, do you have an emergency?" So, in some parts, the more populated areas, they do have the ability. But if you're in a rural area, you may not have the ability to... And also with the locating services on your phone, it's a little more difficult.

Frank:                           So, Bill, maybe so we don't run out of time and we rush this, why don't you share with everybody how they could get ahold of you, whether it's a website, whatever contact information you would like to share.

Bill:                              Sure. Well, the company name is Just Call Bill, so that phone number is area code 864-621-0224. You can find me on Facebook, Just Call Bill, and then the website is a little more trickier, but it is And if you look under services, there's Just Call Bill and it explains everything that we do.

Frank:                           Perfect, perfect. Great, great. So, I know we have had people on the show before, several and we can't do it enough because there's always these scams that are going on. What are some of them that are the most prevalent to share with people? And are these the types of things that you go over with families that you work with as well?

Bill:                              Absolutely. So, I do a whole session on scams and I start with phone scams. That is the number one scam going on right now and it's interesting because, as I explain this in my class, I probably get, hearing groups of people, I'll get people who go, "Really? Who falls for this stuff?" And I said, "People fall for this stuff every day." So, part of it is I'm very serious. I said, "I'm here to scare the bajeezus out of you."

"Not hopefully frighten you like deer in the headlights, but I want you to be more aware, put your awareness antenna up a little further so that you can be more cognizant of what's going on." So, the number one rule that I talk about phone scams is really easy to prevent them: Never, never, never answer your phone unless you know who it is.

And they'll look at me and they say, "Well, what do you mean?" And I said, "Well, the people that you know and you're going to talk with frequently should be a contact in your phone." And if you're getting a call that says "scam likely" or from some area code that you don't know or even an area code you might've used to live in, do not answer because when you answer a phone from a scammer, then your number is sold on the black market and the volume of scam calls will increase.

And so part of that is if you don't answer, you don't get scammed. Now, if you answer, I have lots of people that they want to be cute and, "Oh, well, I'm just going to talk trash to them or put on my three-year-old grandson." Just remember, when you answer, your phone number then will be sold and you're going to get more phone calls.

Frank:                           Yeah, yeah.

Bill:                              I've had stories, I could be on here for an hour with you, telling you what my... What I explain is "bad people are doing bad things to good people, and so you have to be aware." And so don't answer the phone. If it's important, if it's that new doctor or the lady you met at the club the other day to play cards with, they'll leave a message.

Frank:                           Are there particular ones that you could just maybe share with us that seem to be a little more prevalent? That those that do answer the phone, though they shouldn't, but those that do, that they kind of fall for it, some that have?

Bill:                              Yeah, I mean, the bad guys are really good at being friendly and creating a trusting environment. And this could happen over time, just not one phone call. Sometimes they are the one and done, they're getting money from you. But it could be, "Oh, I noticed you're having problems with your computer. If you let me dial into your computer for $250, we'll fix your computer." "Oh, my gosh. Yes, I've been having trouble with my email. I don't know who to call." And all of a sudden, they let them into the computer, they've already given them their credit card and now we're off to the races of bad things.

But that's an extreme one. As I tell a lot of people, there are new scams, especially now with the virus out there, they're playing off the stimulus money, they're playing off prize money, they're playing off your emotions. This happened to my father. "This is Agent Wilson from the IRS calling. Noticing that there's a discrepancy in your taxes from 1992." And my father talked to this guy for 20 minutes before he finally realized what was going on. 

Another thing I show people is how to block their number from certain telemarketing or spam numbers that usually call them. Along with this, I try to educate them on how the bad guys will often just try to call your phone from a different number after you block their first one, and usually, they try to pick an area code that looks familiar to you, in the hope that you won’t think too much of it and just pick it up thinking it’s someone you know. 

                                    And when you block the call, what happens is on their end, the phone just rings and rings and rings.

Frank:                           They can't even leave a message, yeah.

Bill:                              Correct. And the bad guys never used to leave messages, but I keep voicemail messages from... I had a company that said, "Oh, well, we're going to give you a no-interest loan for $175,000." They don't even know me. They're just going to give me $175,000 because I'm a nice guy? So, it's that old adage: "If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is not true."

Frank:                           Correct, correct. So, a subject matter that I'm sure we could spend a whole session on is username and passwords. And I'm sure it's frustrating for everybody, but especially those that aren't as familiar with using phones and all that, and passwords and they're getting suggestions to change their passwords. I mean, as I say, we could probably spend a half hour on this subject. But any just general advice that you could give people regarding managing their username and passwords on various websites?

Bill:                              Yes. A number one rule is write them down. It's interesting we are all taught to protect ourselves from the bad guys, these scammer-type guys because if they get your username and password like your Social Security Number and other things, they can get to just about anything.

But in turn, you're not going to remember all of these. So, come up with a system that works best for you. Whether that's a pad of paper, whether that's a spiral notebook, or some place that you can put these that you would know, but also a loved one will know. That God forbid, if something happened to you, meaning sickness, illness, or death, how could someone access these places where you have usernames and passwords to help you later on?

And I've seen over and over, most recently my brother-in-law's mother just passed away. She paid all the bills online and her husband doesn't know what these are and where they are and how to access them.

Frank:                           Yeah, no, that's good advice. I know there's these third-party programs too. 

Bill:                              There are and they're good if you're tech-savvy enough to know how to navigate them. But if this is a big challenge for you, what I say, as simple as write it down, keep it in a safe place. It's not out on the kitchen table when the painter comes or keep this protected like you would anything else,  but have it in a place that you can go remember. We've gone to help people and they've literally dumped out pieces of paper and napkins with various usernames and passwords and say, "Well, it's here somewhere."

Frank:                           What you do is fantastic and I commend you for doing it.

Bill:                              Thank you.

Frank:                           And so unfortunately we're out of time, but maybe again you could share with everybody how they could contact you and also those that are maybe outside of your area in South Carolina, is there assistance that you could also provide to families from other areas? And again, if you could just answer that and share the information again, that would be great.

Bill:                              Absolutely. So, yes, we can help wherever you are in the country. My goal is to want to grow this business and reach as many seniors and families because it's usually the children of the seniors that get asked these questions, and some of the times they can help and sometimes they can't.

So, call me at 864-621-0224. Look for me on Facebook at Just Call Bill or go to vicorymanagementgroup/justcallbill and I'd love to talk to you, and we'll figure out a way we can help you or get some services available in your area that can help you and your family stay better connected.

Frank:                           Great. Bill, thank you so much for joining us on Boomers Today. I really appreciate it.

Bill:                              Thank you, Frank, and I appreciate the opportunity.

Frank:                           Yeah, that's great and I want to thank everybody for joining us on Boomers Today. Just be safe out there and we'll talk to everybody real soon.

Connecting Seniors and Families Through Technology (with transcript)