Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Aging In Place Wednesday

On Wednesdays, Laurie Orlov, tech industry veteran, writer, speaker and elder care advocate will be sharing her insightful research on how seniors can safely and successfully live independent lives in the home of their choice.


Senior Citizens to Test
Digital Waters
in Upcoming Computer Class

by Amber Parcher Staff Writer, Maryland Community Newspapers Online

The reactions from several senior citizens at Thursday's informal meeting about an upcoming computer class at the Holiday Park Senior Center ranged from dubious — "I heard something about a mouse. Can they use the computer too?"— to enthusiastic: "Will we be learning in Windows XP?"

The public Wheaton center is holding a basic computer course March 6, and director Carol Fuente-Villa wanted to make sure potential students worked out all their bugs at the trial class before signing up.

It took awhile.

To senior citizen Frank Jose, the word commonly used to measure digital information sounds more like an unwelcome nighttime creature than a necessary part of the 21st century.
Jose is one of dozens of seniors who know they need to plunge into the world of computers and "Internets," but for one reason or another are reluctant to even dip in their toes.

Some, like Jose, had bad experiences in previous computer classes that gave them an aversion to the machines. Jose said he just couldn't successfully execute any tasks given to him on the computer.

For others, it's a lifetime of doing things their way —using a pen and paper.

But the repercussions of staying offline are starting to become more noticeable to doubters such as Jose.

"I feel like I'm disconnected from knowing what's going on," said Jose, a retired lawyer who once quit teaching a business course at Montgomery College because all of his pupils were proficient in computers and he knew nothing. "I have friends who won't contact you unless it's by e-mail."

And that's exactly why Fuente-Villa urged her seniors to sign up for the March class.

"You have a responsibility to yourself to give it a try," she said, likening the invention of the computer and its shockwaves on society to the invention of the printing press in the 19th century.

"The information you can have at your fingertips is so exciting," she told the group.

The six-week course will be hosted by the Rockville-based Jewish Council for the Aging, which trains senior citizens to teach their peers the fundamentals of computers.

Holiday Park's partnership with JCA represents a growing demand among seniors for computer lessons of all levels, said Mickey Gordon, the assistant executive director for the Jewish Council for the Aging. The council also holds classes in three other county locations: the Bethesda-Chevy Chase Regional Services Center, the Asbury Methodist Village in Gaithersburg and the B'nai Shalom of Olney.

In each location, senior citizen teachers run a wide variety of courses, such as basics —"For people who have never even seen or touched a computer" — to lessons on Microsoft Excel databases, social media and digital trading sites such as eBay, said Dana Hirsch, JCA's program specialist for productive aging.

Hirsch and Gordon said there is such a range among senior citizens' comfort levels with the computer.

Many seniors are already up-to-date on the latest technology and take classes to enhance their skills for a job, keep up with their children and grandchildren or just out of curiosity.
"They hear what's going on with computers and they just don't want to be left out," Gordon said.
Holiday Park Senior Center member Gail Roe is already ahead of the curve for a computer basics course. She can send and receive e-mail and has a faint understanding of Microsoft Word.

But she said she'd like to augment her skills by learning how to upload digital photos from her camera and use software to keep track of her schedule and integrate the computer into her daily life, the way millions of others already have.
"There might be a lot of things I could do that I'm not doing [on the computer]," Roe said.

And Jose?

Well, he'll give one class a try.

But only after Hirsch assured him he could receive a full refund if he wasn't impressed.

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