How to e-mail seniors who dont have a computer

Published 3:24 pm Monday, August 9, 2010

Dear Savvy Senior

Are there any simple devices that let seniors who dont have a computer receive e-mail? My 75-year-old grandma doesnt have a home computer or the skills to operate one, but loves hearing from her grandkids whenever possible. Is there any such service that can help us stay better connected with her?


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Dear Disconnected,

Keeping in touch with older relatives can be a bit more challenging when they dont use a computer. Fortunately, there are several different products and services available today that can bridge the gap between those who use e-mail and seniors who dont. Heres what you should know.&bsp; &bsp;

E-mail to Snail Mail

While seniors make up the fastest growing group of Internet and e-mail users in the U.S., they still lag way behind the younger generations. Currently around 45 percent of people ages 70 to 75 go online compared to nearly 90 percent of those under age 35. To help, theres a relatively new service called Sunnygram (; 888-517-8669) that will turn your e-mails into stamped letters so you can easily keep in touch with your grandma in formats that youre both accustomed to.

The idea is simple: When you sign up, your grandma will get an e-mail address that you write to. Sunnygram then collects and prints out all the e-mail messages and pictures addressed to her, and snail mails them to her once a week in an appealing newsletter format (large font is an option too). Your grandma then has the option of responding through a Sunnygram prepaid letter which would be scanned and e-mailed to you. Or she can call a toll-free number and leave a voice message, which would get transcribed and sent to you in an e-mail. This service, which costs $13 per month, provides unlimited e-mail and photo printing and any number of family members and friends can correspond with her.

Another neat new service if youre a Facebook user is PostEgram ( It works similar to Sunnygram, except it lets you share Facebook news and photos in a printed newsletter format that can be mailed out weekly, biweekly or monthly.

E-mail to Fax

If youre looking for something a little quicker, check out Celery and Presto, two unique services that will turn your e-mails into printed faxes almost immediately. &bsp;

With a Celery (; 866-692-3537), your grandma can receive e-mails, pictures and documents, along with Twitter and Facebook status updates on printed paper, and she can send handwritten letters electronically too. It uses a color fax/printer connected to a standard phone line to do it. &bsp;

How does it work? When you sign up, your grandma will get a Celery e-mail address that you write to. When you send her an e-mail, Facebook or Twitter update, Celery calls her announcing she has a message being sent, and is automatically printed out on paper. Then to reply, she simply handwrites a letter putting your name in block print at the top. She then places the letter into her Celery fax machine, pushes two buttons and the letter is sent to you electronically. The system uses handwriting-recognition software to match your name to an e-mail address or Twitter account stored in her Celery address book. The cost: $14 a month. You can also use any fax machine with the Celery service, or you can buy their color fax/printer machine for $89.

The other service you should check out is the Presto (; 866-428-0970), a neat device that works like Celery, but uses a special HP Printing Mailbox to deliver your grandmas e-mails, Facebook photos, greeting cards and more. Presto also comes with a nice variety of extra features like ongoing access to articles, recipes and puzzles that your grandma can receive free of charge. And some convenient web tools that let you send quick reminders, and even monitor whos e-mailing her. Presto, however, does not offer your grandma a way to respond, unless she does it the old fashioned way by telephone. The cost: $100 for the Printing Mailbox (which she must have), plus a $15 per month service fee.

Send your senior questions to: Savvy Senior, P.O. Box 5443, Norman, OK 73070, or visit

Jim Miller is a contributor to the NBC Today show and author of The Savvy Senior book.