Inspiration at 105: The Tech Savvy Edythe Kirchmaier

Think about how much technology has changed in the past 10 years. Now imagine how much it has changed in the last century. For Edythe Kirchmaier, Facebook’s oldest user at 105 years old, imagining isn’t necessary: she’s experienced it firsthand.

Recently featured on “The Ellen DeGeneres Show,” ABC News and “The Tonight Show with Jay Leno,” the tech savvy centenarian is a big fan of technology. Her favorite gadget is her iPad mini, which she uses to check email, play Solitaire and look up facts. As a birthday present, Logitech sent Edythe the Logitech Ultrathin Keyboard mini – the perfect gift for her and her iPad mini.

We recently caught-up with Edythe, and were blown away by her passion for life and making a difference – she’s a true inspiration. Check out our Q&A with her below:

Q:  We’ve heard that you celebrated a recent birthday – 105 to be exact! How does it feel and how did you spend your special day?

A: How does it feel? I don’t know…I haven’t been 105 before! [Laughs] Honestly, I was really thrilled to reach 100, but then each new year has come so quickly that I haven’t even realized it.

My 105th birthday was spent at Direct Relief International, the charity where I volunteer every week. They threw me a great big breakfast affair and invited my family, and I received a proclamation by council members and the Santa Barbara Mayor declaring January 22nd as “Edythe Kirchmaier” day. A member of the University of Chicago also flew out to congratulate me for being the oldest living former student on a lifetime of service. I’m just about the oldest everything now!

Q: In addition to recently passing your driver’s test and staying active with your family and in your community, we also heard you are a technology lover. What kind of tech gadgets do you own?

A: That’s right! I just passed my driver’s test on January 23rd. I only got two answers wrong, and they were silly mistakes, only because I didn’t go back and check. I’ve also never had an accident or ticket – not even for parking.

As for tech gadgets, I own a computer, a couple of TVs, a printer, a digital camera, a cell phone (although it’s not a fancy one) and an iPad mini that I carry with me wherever I go.

Q: Is it true you are also on Facebook and are its oldest user? What made you want to join Facebook?

A: Yes, it’s true that I have my own Facebook page. Direct Relief helped me set up the account, which took some time, because Facebook didn’t allow me to enter my birth year of 1908. Direct Relief worked with Facebook to resolve the issue, and I now have more than 30,000 friends on my Facebook. They are from all over the world. I get so many kind messages and pictures sent to me. It’s truly amazing.

Q: Technology has changed quite a bit over the past 105 years, how do you feel about technology today? Do you believe it has changed the world for the better?

A: I like to think it’s for the better. Technology has really opened us up to the world. I think we’re in an age now where we’re just not going to stay put and stand still. I believe more and more good things are going to be discovered, making the world an even better place.

True, in some cases, technology can be misused or not handled properly. But I think about my life and what it’s enabled me to do. I can now connect with my family all over the country, whenever I want to. All I have to do is get on the computer and video chat, and I can actually see my children and grandchildren. It’s so much more intimate being able to talk to them versus just sending pictures, like we used to in years past.

Q: We heard that the iPad mini was your favorite gift this Christmas, so we sent you our newest product – the Ultrathin Keyboard mini – as a birthday gift. What has your experience been with the Ultrathin Keyboard mini so far?

A: I think it’s just great! I used to be too afraid to travel with my iPad mini, but now, because of the Ultrathin Keyboard mini, I carry it with me wherever I go. The keyboard cover fits in my purse just beautifully, and I love knowing that it’s keeping my iPad mini protected.

Before I had it, I used to have to either hold my iPad mini in my hands or lay it flat on the table. Now, I just put it in the keyboard’s little groove, it clicks, and my hands are free to type and do whatever I want to do! I just love it! I carry it all over and show just about everyone.

Q: What advice do you have to folks who are resistant to adopting new technology today?

A: I think people can sometimes be timid, and I’ve never understood why. On my 95th birthday, all my kids got together and gave me a computer, a printer, and a digital camera and they said, ‘Go to work, Mom. Write some things, print them out, and take some pictures.’ I had never even touched a computer before. But my son sat down with me, showed me what to do, and I started playing around. If something went wrong, I’d try not to get discouraged, and I’d call him and ask questions.

You have to play around and persevere. It’s very easy to get discouraged with something new, but you just have to tell yourself that what you’re learning is worthwhile and continue to keep at it – just like you’ve learned to do new things all your life.

Q: Can you tell us a little bit more about your birthday wish this year?

A: My birthday wish this year is to inspire the world to make a difference and to raise awareness for Direct Relief International by getting them 105,000 Likes on their Facebook page. I originally thought this number was ridiculous and that we’d never be able to encourage this many likes, but the response from people across the world has been tremendous so far. The numbers just keep on growing! It’s been exciting to watch, and I’m so elated that we’ve accomplished what we set out to do. [You can participate by going to Direct Relief’s Facebook page or clicking this link: http://on.fb.me/T6lcEa]

Q: What is Direct Relief?

A: Direct Relief is a humanitarian organization that works to improve the health and lives of people in need around the world and in all 50 states.  I’ve been volunteering with them since 1974, when my husband and I saw an ad in the paper asking for volunteers. They sent us to Taiwan where we served for 36 months. Direct Relief is one of the largest providers of medical aid in times of disaster, like with the Haiti earthquake and during Hurricane Sandy. One hundred percent of every donation to Direct Relief goes to improving people’s health and lives.  They have a 99 percent efficiency rating with Forbes, four stars from Charity Navigator, and the staff at Direct Relief have such a wonderful spirit.

Q: Now that you’ve met your goal with getting 105,000 Likes on Direct Relief’s Facebook, what will you do next?

A: I’d still like to see more Likes for Direct Relief. If we hit 105,000 Likes there should be nothing stopping us from hitting 1 million. But outside of that, I’m just going to keep on doing what I’ve been doing – volunteering and taking part in my weekly activities to keep me busy.

Thank you, Edythe, for taking the time to speak with Logitech and congratulations again on getting your birthday wish!

If you haven’t done so yet, head on over to Direct Relief’s Facebook page and wish Edythe a Happy Birthday. How do you expect technology to change in the next 105 years? Let us know in the comments below!

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