Seniors embracing computer technology

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Computer literacy, surfing the net, using social media like Facebook and Twitter, and uploading photos from camera to computer: these are hot-ticket classes at the library this fall and winter, and while the programs are free to all adults with a library card, sessions hold special appeal to seniors.

Janice Cheung, special services co-ordinator at the St. Albert Public Library, said afternoon classes fill up almost as soon as they’re advertised, often with seniors who want to learn to email or Skype to be in touch with family from afar. But sometimes it’s as simple as learning what a mouse is, and how to move it along the pad, or what surfing the net and Google are all about. These basics are covered right along with the more specialized topics.

“We also do one-on-one sessions with people on how to use their devices – how to get apps and how to borrow ebooks. Especially when travelling, seniors see that it makes sense not to carry heavy books around but rather to have them at their fingertips in one small, light device,” said Cheung.

When Jim Jeffrey got a digital reader for Christmas, he immediately signed up for the course entitled, What can you do with a tablet? After a 90-minute session, the 83-year-old understood the basics of downloading ebooks from the library. And while he says it’s not his cup of tea to sign on to Facebook or Twitter, email is another matter. With children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren scattered around Alberta, and extended family back in Scotland, Jeffrey knows the value of keeping in touch online.

“Email is now an important part of our family,” he said. “My goal is to learn to use the technologies I’m interested in as best I can. Now I know how to attach anything to my email.”

Library computer programs have been invaluable to Jeffrey’s genealogy hobby too. The long-time St. Albert resident recently put 600 photos on discs for a family album to share with cousins abroad. And library staffers even helped him choose a laptop to best suit his needs.

“It’s a splendid enterprise,” Jeffrey said.

The library offers computer programs from September to November and January to June. Most are one-time, 90-minute sessions (afternoon or evening) with room for up to seven people in the second floor training room. Word processing, file management, Microsoft Excel, social networking, computer security, and Skype and Google Maps are among the offerings.

Geoff Manderscheid, of adult services, said seniors are eager to be part of new technologies – they want to communicate with family and friends, surf the Internet and organize files. In fact, interactive technology that does away with the keyboard and mouse altogether is a bigger draw still.

“Tablets and touch screen technology – (seniors) pick it up and they want it,” said Manderscheid. “What used to be like science fiction 30 years ago is now seen as a way to interact with the world. And of all those who take the classes, our seniors are the most committed. A door opens for them, and they’re eager to go through it.”

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Lucy Haines

Lucy Haines has been a freelancer writer for the St. Albert Gazette since 2012. She writes features on travel, food, seniors, homes and gardens.