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We’ll start off with the basics…

The unit itself is a small black box, about the size of a cable box. You can hook it up to just about any TV. But there needs to be three "av" plugs in the back of the TV. These plugs are colored yellow for video, and red and white for left/right audio. If there are no plugs on the TV, you can also hook up the webtv through a VCR. They almost always have these plugs. Then all you need is a telephone hookup and you are good to go! It’s that easy. The unit comes with a handheld "clicker" to operate the webtv, but if you plan on typing e-mails, or going into chat rooms, (yes you can chat!) you better get a keyboard. The "classic version" webtv has a hookup for a regular keyboard, but there is nothing like the cordless keyboard that you can get for easy cord free use. Then, you can operate the unit from across the room if you need to. The newer webtv plus, has no hookup for a regular keyboard, and you have to buy the cordless.


There are both Sony and Magnavox versions of the webtv. We use the Sony classic. Price is usually $99.00 for the classic version, $199.00 for the plus. Look out for sales though! Locally, the classic version has been on sale for $69.00! The difference between the two is the plus can be hooked up to a printer with no added equipment, and has picture in picture capability to watch TV while surfing, and may be just a little faster. We have no need for either, if an e-mail needs to be printed, I just forward it to my computer. The cordless keyboard is only about $40.00.

The hookup/monthly fee is just $19.95 a month for the classic,and $25.00 a month for the plus model. It can be paid by check, (as most facilities do), but only for 6 months at a time. When I bought it for my facility, I was on line and surfing 20 min. after I brought it back. I registered on line, (all automatic) and when I told them I was paying by check, they said OK, gave me my confirmation #, and I was on line! I thought that was pretty cool. Just remember, that is about $120.00 initial cost. Otherwise, it’s $19.95 a month by credit or debit card. You can arrange for automatic deductions too.


Now the web TV cannot do all that a computer does, of course. It cannot read any Java, can't download any programs, or get any real audio above 3.5. (real audio will be available soon after an expected free upgrade) No streaming audio/video, etc. But everything else is available to you on that the Internet offers. Even some things that a computer can't see! We often go to this karaoke site and sing away with the scrolling words just like at the karaoke clubs. A computer user has to download a karaoke player, learn how to use it, and take space up on their hard drive. If you have the webtv hooked up to a stereo/home theater, through a VCR, you almost have a professional karaoke player! And there is this neat audioscope effect that you can add to web pages and e-mails that is only seen with a webtv.


Every Thursday, we go on line with our activity called "surfin safari". Besides the karaoke site I mentioned, (which is another scheduled activity) we vote for the favorite baby of the week at one site, take a look at the latest "best cat pictures", or look up whatever holiday it is and all there is to know and remember. The millennium has been quite a subject lately as you may guess. Going to "The Activity Connection" and other Activity Directors sites is also a great idea for us, and use them almost like a search engine for interesting places to go, craft ideas, and other Activity programming. Residents get more of a say in what they would like to do with many more choices and ideas that I could ever come up with or present to them in any better format.

And all the e-mails! This is one of the most successful and enjoyable programs. We put our e-mail address in our facility newsletter, and loved ones are now keeping in touch with their seniors twice as much. Especially the grand-kids they are on the computer anyway all the time, "Grandma is so cool! She is on line!" Families send pictures of Baptisms, great-grand kids, vacations and pictures of years past. We use a 36" TV and all the pictures, words, etc. are easily seen by the residents. One lady of ours, after seeing a picture of her daughter, was telling everyone she saw "her baby" on TV! "I knew she would be a star one day" she!


A couple of other ideas too, some of these I used to convince a very frugal Administrator to approve the expenditure of the initial cost.


Lets face it, we Activity Directors and our programming ideas, are one of the number one marketing tools for a facility next to the nursing services. Quite a number of times I have seen raised eye-brows when visitors and potential clients hear of us "surfin" or Mrs. Smith getting an e-mail. (It stopped a surveyor right in her tracks when she heard that, yea!). Some of our family members don’t have a computer themselves and are "amazed that their loved one here at the nursing home are more advanced then they are" ha ha! Word does get around..

Contact with families has increased…. Some who live local, e-mail us to give us their phone numbers when going out of town, or when they are bringing in surprises or special visitors.

Brownie points for Survey

Almost all areas now have instant E-mail notification of severe weather. (especially here in Florida!) That is a real plus as well for survey that we have that "extra" notification and backup for emergencies. Actually, it was thanks to hurricane Andrew that the Administrator took notice of the webtv I was bringing in my unit from home to keep up with updates on the storm. If you have short term residents, such as in a re-hab/SSU and have their own e-mail at home, they can access their accounts like on AOL. Survey just loved this too! The last time they were in the building, a young 30yo in our re-hab unit was accessing his e-mail, and later was in a chat room talking about VW bugs. Talk about having "age appropriate" activities! A Nurse here is also planning on using the webtv to go to a site during an inservice coming up too. It just goes on and on……


It takes just a little time in figuring out and using all the special features of the webtv unit, but you can create your own web page with relative ease! Cut/paste "transloading" files on to sites like Tripod, and others and even publishing them! It’s really not that hard at all! And all on a TV! The possibilities and extras seem endless!


I have created a site created totally with the webtv, called "SeniorCyber". Many of the sites I have discussed are located there, as well as other activities using the webtv. I am always open for suggestions, and want to start an e-mail pen-pal club soon, with other Seniors using the webtv at nursing homes. The residents here, actually help me with the site, and "vote" on some of the content, like sharing favorite links, or places to go on the Internet that others have sent us to check out. Come visit, see more of what we do, and hopefully, we’ll see you in Cyberspace real soon.!

Info about me:

Have been in the health field for 8 years as a cna, then moved on to an Activities Assistant for 4 years, to finally Activities Director/Supervisor for the past 8. I Live in St. Petersburg Florida, and presently, I am an Activity Director for a 120 bed SSU/LTC facility in Seminole Fl. , and hold the position of President, for District V Florida Healthcare Activity Coordinator Association. (FHCACA) I welcome all to ask questions or make comments will be glad to help!

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