Seniors' surf class helps mature learners wade into technology
Navigating the world of technology can leave even the most motivated senior citizen stranded. "One of the hardest things for me in my career of nursing was switching to computers," said Kathy Janzig, who recently retired after 42 years. "I'd pref...
Navigating the world of technology can leave even the most motivated senior citizen stranded.
"One of the hardest things for me in my career of nursing was switching to computers," said Kathy Janzig, who recently retired after 42 years. "I'd prefer taking care of a cardiac arrest than working on a computer."
Luckily, there were no cardiac arrests during the two-hour class in which Janzig was participating at the Duluth Public Library's computer center. To help seniors in a plugged-in and online world, the Arrowhead Area Agency on Aging has a new class called Senior Surf Day. In it, seniors learn about basic computer and internet skills.
"The seniors there are very overwhelmed with everything going computer," Janzig said, "so hopefully, at some point I can take what I've learned here in class and gently teach people how to do some things."
Michele Flatau, volunteer coordinator for the agency, said that in every class, participant interests guide part of the instruction.
"One of the best approaches that instructors use is getting to know participants a bit at the beginning of the class to find out what people's interests are," she said. "Goals include helping seniors get connected with resources that are going to be useful to them as seniors."
For Janzig, getting connected with helpful resources meant spending some class time accessing www.medicare.gov to learn more about how to help her husband, who has ALS.
"I've just been doing the work by hand and by phone before," she said. "So, this is really helpful that I can just do it here online."
One participant already knew the basics of how to surf, point, and click but attended the class anyway. Bob Hjort started using computers in his business 30 years ago. He remembers when a computer case stood six feet high and held a 14-inch disc.
"I've been on computers ever since then. I feel like I'm pretty literate on computers. But, the price of the class was right. It didn't cost me anything," he said. "I thought I could pick up some tips, which
I did -- about URLs, adware, blocking pop-ups, http addresses -- things you kind of know, but kind of question. The class clarified some points. I also wanted to get a feel for what a class is like
here at the library and make contact with a few people."
Volunteer teacher Esther Gieschen taught six seniors in the computer center at the library last Tuesday, covering computer hardware from monitors to mouse pads. She talked about maintaining data safety in the online world, which might include getting a separate credit card with a very low balance to use for online purchasing. She led participants into a Google search engine and helped them explore MapQuest.
Participants received a comprehensive packet of material to keep, including a list of useful websites, a mouse pad imprinted with www.MinnesotaHelp.info data, a booklet containing basic computer information, and a Senior Surf Day Evaluation form.
Hjort said that he would recommend the class to any beginner. To learn more, call the Senior LinkAge Line at 1-800-333-2433.