[Web4lib] Classes for Seniors

Carol Bean beanworks at gmail.com
Wed Aug 16 22:03:52 EDT 2006

As someone who teaches primarily seniors (in this case, adults over 65) to
use computers, and who has extensively researched gerontology and older
adult learning on computers, I would have to disagree.

First of all, according to the *Pew Internet* & American Life
only about 32% of adults over 65 go online (the number is up from less than
30% a few years ago).  Historically, the number that use computers but don't
go online has been slightly higher than those that do.  That's a big
percentage of older adults who do not use computers.

There are people who retired from the workforce just as desktop computers
were becoming mainstream.  Until recently they had very little incentive to
join in the technology revolution.  Now they are left out of communication,
excluded from resources, and sometimes excluded from basic services if they
cannot use a computer and get online.

But there are significant barriers to adopting the technology, and one of
those significant barriers is the lack of effective computer training for
them which takes into account the aging factors which intefere with their
learning.  For a discussion, see <shameless plug> Meeting the Challenge:
Training an Aging Population to Use Computers (
http://sela.jsu.edu/SoutheasternLibrarian/Fall2003.pdf, also available at
http://dlist.sir.arizona.edu/259/) and Techniques for Enabling the Older
Population in Technology<http://www.jelit.org/archive/00000040/01/JeLit_17.pdf>(
www.jelit.org/archive/00000040/01/JeLit_17.pdf)</shameless plug>

But even when we are past this group of older adults, there will be the next
generation, who, yes, will have experience with computers and technology.
>From *yesterday*.  They will need to learn the new technology that we can
see coming down the pipes.  But the older they get, the more incentive they
need to learn new technology.  They pretty much go with what's comfortable
(what they know now).  As an example, my dad is 80 years old.  He has been
using computers since 1978.  He had an Adobe program he had been using for
15 years to do some very simple graphics manipulation on documents
(something word processors have been doing for almost 10 years now).  I
couldn't get him to switch to Word, or Open Office for anything.  Finally he
was forced to find something else because the program he was using wouldn't
run on his new computer.  I was able to get him to try iWorks, with a lot of
cajoling and hand-holding. He's satisfied because it does what he wants, but
not happy because he's having a hard time relearning everything.

Senior classes will not be artifacts until there are no more Seniors, or
there is no new technology.

I'll get off my soapbox now... :-)

Carol Bean

On 8/16/06, Sloan, Bernie <bernies at uillinois.edu> wrote:
> As someone old enough to qualify for AARP membership and all kinds of
> senior citizen benefits I feel the need to make a point here.
> Back in the early days of personal computing, the Internet, the Web,
> etc, it made sense to focus on seniors as a group with limited computing
> experience. The seniors back then had grown up in an age without
> computers. Now we are sliding into an age where a lot of nascent seniors
> have dealt with computing for most of their lives. As an example, I've
> worked professionally with computing/IT for 30 years.
> Anyway, at some point in the near future (if it hasn't already happened)
> a person's age will no longer be a reliable indicator of computing
> background/experience.
> Folks who develop training courses will need to consider this. It has a
> lot more to do with a person's level of experience/comfort with
> computers than it has to do with a person's age. "Senior classes" may
> become an artifact of the early days of computing.
> Bernie Sloan
> -----Original Message-----
> From: web4lib-bounces at webjunction.org
> [mailto:web4lib-bounces at webjunction.org] On Behalf Of Michele Haytko
> Sent: Wednesday, August 16, 2006 4:38 PM
> To: Web4lib at webjunction.org; publib
> Subject: [Web4lib] Classes for Seniors
> What do you call your classes specifically for seniors or, if you
> don't have a special name, what would you call them?  We are creating
> a special, 4-part series, and want to come up with something better
> than "Senior Track".
> Thanks in advance!
> ~michele~
> --
> **************)0(**************
> Mrs. C. Michele Haytko
> Montgomery County-Norristown Public Library
> MC-NPL Computer Lab
> 1001 Powell Street
> Norristown, PA 19401
> 610-278-5100 Ext. 141
> Just because I am paranoid doesn't mean they are not after me....
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