Check out tech zoo

Published 10:40 pm Friday, July 11, 2014

The Suffolk Public Library’s adorably named “Tech Petting Zoo” might seem needless to younger folks who have grown up using cellphones, computers and other technology.

But to older people who would like to be able to use technology to improve their lives, it could be a good way to get help with their devices without hearing their grandchildren’s exasperated voices telling them for the 27th time how to turn on their tablet.

The Tech Petting Zoo allows any library patron without outstanding charges on their library cards to visit a library branch and try out three tablet devices — an Apple iPad, a Samsung Galaxy Tab 3 and a Kindle Fire HDX.

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Library staff can help patrons learn how to perform basic functions with their tablets and also show them how they can use their Suffolk library membership with a variety of services that allow them to borrow movies, television show episodes, e-books, audiobooks and e-editions of magazines.

For an older person who got a device, for example, for a Christmas gift or is considering getting one to keep in touch — or even a younger person who wants to try out the capabilities of each device before buying one — the Tech Petting Zoo is a wonderful idea.

The devices might seem frivolous, especially for someone who is retired, but a study by the University of Texas at Dallas suggests otherwise.

The study by graduate student Micaela Chan, published online last month in “The Gerontologist,” indicate that tablet use can help older people strengthen their cognitive function.

After 10 weeks of the study, a small group of adults ages 60 to 90 who received training in using the tablets and spent an average of 15 hours a week on them showed more improvement on memory and processing speed than two control groups — one that stayed home and performed activities of low cognitive demand and one that got together and socialized.

Despite the small size of the study, the findings are promising, and it’s hard to argue that learning a new skill would hurt anyone of any age. Participants in the study also reported personal benefit to learning how to keep in digital contact with family members.

So make an appointment today to go to your local library and check out the Tech Petting Zoo. It could improve your life.