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Published: Friday, 12/24/2010

Simple new Web site caters to those over 80

Let's talk about chestnuts. Not the ones roasting by the open fire. I mean the old ones you hear all the time.

That's the one that shoves people over 80 to life's sidelines, figuring there's nothing left there except maybe some estate money to skim or scam.

Well, meet Trey and Wendy Denton. In late November, this couple, both marketing specialists in their fields, launched a Web site for Wendy's parents, Nina and Papa, who are in their 80s. The Dentons live in Georgia. They thought the parents, who live in Michigan, should learn to use the Web for fun and education.

So we have seniordashboard.com, the easiest Web site to navigate I've ever seen.

There's a photo of a dashboard up in the right corner but none of the dancing, moving, zooming, cluttered space a homepage usually displays.

And no ads.

It cost the Dentons about $1,500 set the page up, Wendy says. And another $12 a month to host it on Web.com.

Take a look. There's a list of about six sites for four topics — news, information, interests, and staying connected. One easy click takes you “world news,” for example, and that connects with options for CNN, the New York Times, and so on.

“Oh, it was a big commitment to put this together,” Wendy says. “And we're always adding to it.”

I think what's amazing is the site's simplicity. We forget the Internet operates without bells and whistles — “stuff” we usually find messing up sites.

What motivated the creation of seniordashboard.com?

“My parents just don't leave the house as much as they used to,” Wendy says. “We thought if we could get them on the Internet their lives would be more interesting, more informed, even more fun.”

The elders don't use a computer now. In fact, they don't even know there's a site created for them.

“That's really a surprise,” Wendy says. “For Christmas, we're giving them an iPad, complete with e-mail and Facebook accounts, setting this up as their home page and keeping our fingers crossed.

“So far they have resisted computers, but we're hoping this new set-up will be enticing enough to get them online.”

The Dentons launched the site early to “check it out, of course,” Wendy says.

Their biggest surprise: Without fanfare, without publicity, seniordashboard.com has already become an international favorite. Of the 10 top users, four are from Japan.

“I don't know how they found us,” Wendy says.

Maybe they were looking for what the Dentons offer: A simple, non-intrusive format that gives Web surfers a “safe place” to return as they build Internet confidence and proficiency.

“There are no video ads, no dropdown ads, in fact, no ads at all on the opening homepage,” she says. “Nothing happens that the user does not choose to happen and the page looks the same each time the user returns.”

The Dentons have decided to invest in search ads during December to offset some of their monthly costs.

“If it proves helpful and some use is sustained after the holidays, we will consider doing more promotion,” Wendy says. “If usage stalls after the promotion period ends ... well, it's a nice site for our parents to use and anyone else is more than welcome.”

Kudos to the Dentons for what they've created. The simplicity of the site masks its depth.

But here's the best part: The Boomer Dentons are also creating an easily sustainable business for themselves.

Follow your passion. Start your own business. Become an independent entrepreneur.

Buzzwords for the 21st century.

Many try. Few succeed.

I'll be interested to see how the Dentons fare. He's a marketing professor and she heads a marketing team at a local bank. And they're taking your suggestions now at the Web site, seniordashboard.com.

Wouldn't it be refreshing if simplicity trumps the sophistication of most Web sites featured today?

Simplicity in our complicated, convoluted world. What a concept as we launch the second decade of the 21st century!



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