Helping seniors get computer-savvy

CONNECTING WITH THE COMMUNITY: Stay Connected volunteer Claude Edirisinghe (left) helps Louise Anderson, a senior citizen participating in the program.

She took out her laptop from an old ragged leather bag. She then took out a thick book with a yellow cover and placed it on the table right beside the laptop. It was the book Windows 8 for Dummies.

Eager to learn and ready to go, Louise Anderson had booked the next hour to get one-on-one computer training with a volunteer at the Ajax Public Library’s McLean branch through its Stay Connected program.

Anderson is nervous when it comes to computers. She bought the book hoping it would help her get a hang of her laptop but it wasn’t helpful. She wants to learn how to send e-mails and play music on her computer as well as go into her pictures.

“I’m an older person, I just don’t get everything as easy as you do and I think I’m going to break something or I’m going to wipe off something, so I’m kinda little nervous. I open it, I close it back because I don’t know where to go or what to do,” she said.

There are many more like her which is why Stay Connected was created, to provide hands-on technology training for seniors and older adults.

Elaine Lievart, information assistant at the Ajax Public Library’s main branch, looks after the older adult programs.

Lievart is the staff representative for the Older Adults Committee at the library, comprised of six older adults. The committee has learned from going into the community that computer training is in demand in that age demographic. Seniors want to learn how to use computers, send e-mails, and surf the Internet, as well as be connected with friends and family.

“Because the world around them is increasingly computer generated, everything is online, some are feeling they’re getting behind by not being able to use these things,” she added.

Two years ago, they did a survey of older adults in the community and a vast majority said they wanted computer training. It’s one of the things they want to see the library provide.

“You have to remember that a lot of these older adults are fixed income as well. If they want computer training, to go and get computer training can cost a lot of money and they can’t afford that,” she explained.

Seniors also have the option to be paired up with someone who speaks their own language. “Maybe they can understand something better in their own language than in English because of English being their second language,” Lievart said.

Claude Edirisinghe, a second-year student at Durham College studying Computer System Technology, is one of the volunteers. He decided to be involved because his studies relate to technology and computers.

“Technology is evolving, so for every year or every two years there will be a new product or new version of the operating system or something so it’s changing fast I think that’s one of the things they find hard to grasp, its changing so fast, they cant keep up with it, and that’s the problem,” he said.

Cindy Poon is the manager of public services at the Main branch. She got a grant from the federal government to help pay for new laptops and tablets for the program.

“I worked in other libraries and I know there’s a demand for technology training for adults and seniors, particularly seniors,” she said, “and you see them too, coming into the library, they usually ask the staff for support.”

Along with the one-on-one, there will also be workshops. One of the upcoming workshops is on safely shopping online where the seniors will be visited by someone who works at a bank. They will also have workshops on online identity theft where Durham police will come in to speak on the topic.

“I’m glad that they’re interested in learning more about computer and what they can use it personally for,” said Raj Ameerally, community branch assistant at the McLean branch said. “

Lizabethann Purcell did a similar technology program last year at the library and she didn’t want to stop there. Computers have now become a hobby for her. She wants to create a slideshow for her friends.

“I think seniors out there that are nervous and say ‘I can’t do it, I can’t do it,’ you can, if you put your mind to it, you can,” she said.

The program started near the end of October and will run until March. The seniors meet up with the volunteers at the library to get training from a younger, tech-savvy generation. Volunteers range in age from fifteen and older.