Event Host Brian Westbrook, Bill Sleepers and Barbara Sleepers

Event Host Brian Westbrook, Bill Sleeper and Barbara Sleeper

Bill Sleeper stands with the aid of his walker and turns to the room of several hundred. He waves, reaches into his pocket and pulls out his iPhone, raising it above his head like a trophy. The audience whistles and hoots in applause.

Sleeper is 96 years old.

Sleeper attended “Storytelling In the Age of Online Video,” a panel put on by the Seattle Social Media Club on the role of video in social media; he was the oldest individual ever to attend one of the club’s events.

The Seattleite, originally from New Hampshire, now lives at the Merrill Gardens retirement community and, for some time now, has been teaching his neighbors how to use social media and technology.

“If you have a finger, you’re all set,” says Sleeper about how easy it is to use social media to stay in touch with family.

Sleeper is one of very few people in his generation that have adopted technology and social media. Yes, “adopt,” because, according to Sleeper, “adapting” isn’t that hard.

He says that people around his age have to get past a few barriers before embracing all that is digital.

The first barrier is money, and Sleepers says you have to be able and willing to spend a little bit of cash for a computer or smart phone.

Second is attitude. “They think it’s difficult, but it’s not,” says Sleeper.

People also have to understand that they won’t break the equipment just from normal use, he says. Don’t be afraid to use technology and other new tools.

Lastly, he said a lot of people think you have to be savvy to use new technology. “The heck you do,” he says. “You do like a 3-year-old and start in. It’s amazing.”

Sleeper uses a computer, a laptop and his iPhone to show people how to use technology and social media to make things easier for themselves. His process? He shows his neighbors how to connect to WiFi, set up email and then he expands from there. He is currently teaching a neighbor how to use his iPad.

“Family is everything,” he said. “You want to keep in touch.” He explains to his neighbors that they can write or call to their families, but he also advocates using instant messages, a tool he likes to call “antenna taps.”

Loree Wagner attended the event with Sleeper along with his daughter Barbara Sleeper. Wagner works in public relations for Merrill Gardens.

“He [Sleeper] says, ‘Here’s how easy it is. If I can do it, anyone can,’” says Wagner.

Although Sleeper recently started his “classes,” Wagner anticipates the residents of Merrill Gardens to start using technology more and more as it spreads from neighbor to neighbor.

“He really understands it and uses it,” says Wagner. “It’s amazing.”