Lethbridge seniors aren’t standing on the shoulders of the information superhighway. They’re sharpening their tech-savvy skills and running right alongside the younger Internet users.
The Lethbridge Seniors Centre Organization helps by offering a computer club, which has been operating since the early ’90s. Closely related to it is a newer club dedicated to digital photography.
Between 120 and 200 members meet every month to learn about computers and again for specific two-hour workshop seminars on all aspects of the digital world from how to use a mouse and send an email to the intricacies of social media such as Facebook and Twitter. While not all of the members attend all of the events, they meet once a week every month except July and August. They meet on the last Monday of the month from 9 a.m. onwards, while the two-hour workshops, led by everybody from LSCO executive director Rob Miyashiro to club president Ione Dergousoff, take place on the last Wednesday of the month. There are also three-week classes, which take place twice a week on computer basics.
While learning new skills is a big draw, the opportunity to socialize is also appealing.
“I teach computer basics like email, Windows and help them set up their email,” said Dergousoff, who is a retired teacher.
The LSCO offers a computer room with 17 computers for members to keep practising their skills.
She said the biggest challenge for seniors is to remember what they have learned.
“They don’t really get to know it if they don’t practise. If you don’t use the skills, then you lose them,” she observed.
She has been a member of the club since around 1994.
The classes also teach the basics of creating PowerPoint presentations and Print Shop and more advanced programs such as Skype to help the members keep in contact with their loved ones.
They also try to keep on top of technology changes.
“I just got an iPad and I’d love to have a seminar on these tablets,” Dergousoff said.
“At the beginning, there were a lot of courses on how to use the Internet and email. But you’re always learning something new. I got the iPad and the first thing I learned is you need a wi-fi modem,” she said, adding that is one of the appeals of the computer club.
“We’re really a group that is open to meeting new people and learning new things.”
Most of the members are in their 70s and older, she observed, but noted they will have to keep up with the times if they are to attract the more computer literate baby boomers who are becoming seniors.
“We have members from 55 to 90,” she said.
Marg Matteson joined the club for the social events, but was impressed by the information and the guest speakers.
“We get a lot of great information. We had a couple of the boys from the Future Shop who gave us a two-hour talk on a Wednesday,” she said.
Erwin Fellner joined the club about five years ago.
“I wanted to learn how to use the computer so I could communicate by email and how to use the keyboard.”
Archivist June Cameron noted the club began with five members and quickly expanded.
“It’s a very informative club and very educational,” she noted.
“If there’s something you want to discuss that you don’t know, they will bring in someone.”
Classes don’t ignore the dangers of the Internet.
“The bad news is whatever you put out there (online) is there forever, but the good news is people have never been more connected,” Miyashiro recently told a group of fascinated seniors, while showing them the ropes of social media including Facebook, Twitter and Google+.
Stan Kuniec, who’s been involved with the club for the past two years, said he’s found the material interesting.
“I wanted to learn about social media and YouTube and Facebook and how to communicate by using social networking,” he said. “I find a couple of the classes have been great.”
Cameron says a computer club is a natural fit with the seniors centre.
“Because let’s face it, our generation didn’t grow up with computers. And computers are a necessary part of life. They aren’t going anywhere.”