Voices From the Lab: Learning the language at any age

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“I’m no longer afraid of the computer.” It’s a line that’s been said many times by  students after attending computer classes taught by Technology For All (TFA)’s  program specialists at public computer centers in rural Texas and San Antonio.

Many of the students are elderly (or “well-seasoned” as one said he preferred), who often  lack technology skills. According to an April 2012 survey by the Pew Internet & American Life Project, people age 65 and older lag behind in their technology skills, with only about half of them going online or using computers.

By getting hands-on computer training through classes such as those provided by TFA, the elderly are much more comfortable with the technology that previously had passed them  by. TFA program specialists teach students how to use the mouse and keyboard, search the  Internet, find information on important topics such as health and government, connect  with friends and family through social media, and generally make computer easier to understand and use.

One elderly student said before taking a class about computers “It’s like a foreign
language to me.” Another joked, “I don’t know anything about a computer, and with my
luck, when I get to Heaven I will have to log in.” Most elderly students are amazed by
the wide variety and amount of information available on the Internet. “It’s opened a whole new world to me,” said one Smithville resident. “I found a former classmate from over 50 years ago. We’ve reconnected after all these years.”

Lonnie Wilkerson, a La Grange resident, walked into a class at the Fayette County  Library with a laptop he had received as a gift but didn’t know how to use.  He started taking classes to understand the basics of how to use his computer, but now knows how to email and search the Internet. At age 79, he has found ways to connect with his family and friends via email and Facebook.

“Still taking classes,” Wilkerson said recently. “The light I saw at the end of the tunnel  was not an oncoming train, but a brighter future in computer proficiency.”

TFA is a partner in the Texas Connects Coalition (TXC2). Go to www.techforall.org for a complete list of TXC2 public computer centers in libraries, workforce centers and community centers, and related class schedules.  Contact your closest site to register for a free computer skills course now!

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