When it comes to seniors learning how to use computer technology, many of them rely on their children for help.
But Bob Green’s children live in Vancouver, so whenever he gets stuck with a computer problem, he turns to Shelbea Julseth-White for assistance at the James Bay New Horizons centre.
The 71-year-old admits he’s not illiterate when it comes to knowing his way around a computer and mainly uses it to look things up. But even though he has a firm grasp on the basics, there’s always new things to learn as the technology continually evolves.
“You have to learn new skills along the way. It’s not an overnight process, it’s ongoing,” said Green. “You need somebody to go to and say okay, I’m stuck here, help me.”
The James Bay New Horizons Centre offers one-on-one computer and Internet training sessions for a variety of technology such as iPads, tablets, laptops and smartphones.
Julseth-White runs the popular sessions, averaging three appointments a day. Her clients range in age from 55 to 92 and many of them are repeats. Most have never used a computer before and have been forced into the technology world by their children, but slowly start to realize some of the benefits it has to offer.
“I’ll teach some of them for a while and they still don’t want to use the machines because they have no interest at all,” said Julseth-White. “Other times they seem to catch on so quickly and know more than me.”
Living in a generation that revolves around the Internet, Julseth-White admits teaching some seniors about computer technology can be difficult at times. Words such as iCloud and browser are unfamiliar and often require a lot of explanation.
Many of the seniors Julseth-White sees are there to learn how to use email or social media so they can communicate with their family. Others want to learn basic typing skills, how to look things up for health reasons or simply play online games like poker.
Regardless of the reason for signing up for the sessions, Julseth-White said many seniors can benefit from staying up to snuff with technology as more information shifts online.
“With the games, they can engage mentally and stimulate the mind and communicate with their family. It’s definitely a way for everyone right now to have less social isolation,” she said, adding some find the technology overwhelming. The biggest challenge is getting clients to practice what they learned.
“I can spend six weeks with them and the machine will just sit there at home. My main goal is finding something that they actually enjoy and do during their day-to-day life that keeps them going and interested in the machine because that’s when you start learning.”
Feeling she needed to keep up with what’s happening when it comes to computer technology, Anne Logie signed up for a session with Julseth-White last fall.
The 78-year-old has owned a computer for about 12 years and can look things up and send emails, but finds it difficult keeping up with how rapidly things change. She wouldn’t call herself computer savvy, but Logie has enough skills to do what she needs.
“There are so many things now and days you can’t do unless you have a computer or you have an email address,” said Logie.
“I can see it coming down the road that that’s going to be the only way we communicate with each other. If you don’t have a computer or an email address, you’re not a person anymore.”