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  Digital Age is Ageless  
  Seniors Now Computer Learning Centers help older adults learn computer skills.

By Susan Cross
  Lorena Byrd teaches graphics classes to older adults at Seniors Now Computer Learning Center.  

Grandma and grandpa know that handwritten letters and traditional phone calls from family are going the way of the dinosaur. It’s all e-mail, Facebook and Skype. So what’s a senior with limited computer skills to do?

It has become virtually impossible to hide from the virtual world. Seniors Now Computer Learning Center knows this and is helping treat older adults to master their CPS—Computer Phobia Syndrome. Some seniors don’t have CPS per se, but often have a “Who needs them?” attitude toward computers, says Beverly Bressant a volunteer with the program.

With that starting point, how does Seniors Now teach older adults their way around a computer? First they get used to seeing and having access to computers, by having computer labs set up at the Marks Street Senior Recreation Complex in downtown Orlando and the Renaissance Senior Center in East Orlando. Each of the Orange County supported labs is equipped with 10 computers and a volunteer staff so students can get the individual attention they need. Labs are open on Monday afternoons at both centers. People can get help learning to use a computer during the labs or bring their laptops if they need special help acclimating to their own equipment.

Students are typically at different levels when they enter the program. The first class is very basic and targeted to those who don’t know anything about computers. The following two classes introduce the mouse, scrolling and file management.

The advanced courses are focused on using digital photos, spreadsheets and graphics. Many students take the advanced courses to delve into genealogy and digital scrapbooking. For these classes students are required to own a computer so that they can go home and practice. “As the demand grows, it’s likely that the centers will offer classes on Facebook and even buying and selling on eBay in the future,” says Lorena Byrd of Seniors Now.

All Seniors Now coaches are volunteers. If a particular student is very good, when he or she completes a class they are encouraged to return as a coach. Some coaches continue to learn as they help others.

John Handley has been coaching for about two years. “Everything I’ve learned about computers was in this classroom,” he says. He had some experience at the advent of the personal computer. “As a coach, I find that the ones that have the most difficulty are the ones that can’t hear and can’t see. We have all kinds of challenges but they want to learn and that’s what’s important.”

With life expectancy increasing and technology helping them with issues of sight and hearing, it’s important for seniors to get familiar with technology just to communicate.

Bressant, herself is someone that is learning just how beneficial being computer savvy can be. She got to see her granddaughter’s room via webcam the other day. The experience brought them closer together. “I spent an hour last night iChatting with my granddaughter—just running our mouths so to speak,” says Bressant.

The Seniors Now Computer Learning Center classrooms are open for visitors from 12-3 p.m. every Monday. Everyone is welcome! We invite you to see our facilities, meet members of our staff, and talk with students who are taking our classes.

The Seniors Now Computer Learning Center has two classrooms. One is in the Marks Street Senior Recreation Complex at 99 East Marks Street in Orlando. The building is on the corner of Marks Street and Magnolia Avenue, one traffic light north of Colonial Drive (State Route 50).

The other classroom is in the Renaissance Senior Center at South Econ Community Park at 3800 S. Econlockhatchee Trail in Orlando. The building is approximately one mile south of Curry Ford Road on South Econlockhatchee Trail.

For more information, visit http://www.seniorsnoworlando.org/.

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