Technology is changing every day, and it’s not always easy to keep up. Retirees and senior citizens — people who didn’t grow up with computers in their homes — sometimes choose to live without the latest digital tools rather than learn how to utilize them.
The Jewish Community Center is trying to change that through its TechAge Adult Computer Learning Center. The volunteer-run program offers various levels of classes on computer basics, digital photography, social media, iPad use, and more.
Each class is for adults ages 45 and up, taught by adults. There are no more than 10 students in any class, and there are three coaches per class to provide individual attention and support.
“It goes at a relaxed pace, it’s not intimidating, and the fact that there are coaches makes all the difference in the world,” said Carol Redden, a Brighton resident who has taken five courses through the program. “It’s practical and fun. It’s absolutely wonderful, and the price is right.”
Courses range in price from $20 to $89 depending on length. Each course comes with a guidebook students can take home for review, and the computer lab offers free help sessions that are open to the public from noon to 2 p.m. on weekdays.
“It’s a gift,” Redden said.
TechAge’s program coordinator, Joel Elias, was a research chemist for DuPont and a longtime computer user before he retired. He started with the program in 2000 and says his goal is to train students so they can use the technology on their own.
“They’re a little bit afraid of computers,” Elias said of his first-time students. “What seems to happen is they come in with this apprehension, then they learn what they can do.”
Marie D’Lima, a member of the TechAge publicity committee, said the courses were important because many senior citizens are getting iPads, digital cameras, or computers as gifts, but they don’t know what to do with them. Learning how to use them can help these people stay in touch with their families.
“I think technology has changed so much, people are not even writing letters,” D’Lima said. “This is great because the older people feel comfortable. There is no intimidation whatsoever.”
Joan Willis, who recently got a new camera to bring on an African safari in October, took a photography class to learn how to get the most out of the equipment. She agreed with D’Lima.
“I wanted very much to be able to get some great photographs and this class has been great,” Willis said. “I’m learning what to look for and also how I can enhance my photographs after I get home.”
The program has 70 active volunteers, but it could always use more — especially as it expands. Elias said he was hoping to institute new outreach programs to bring iPads into senior living facilities.
“Things change,” Elias said. “We have to change with the technology to make sure we’re providing students with what they want, what they need, and what they don’t know they can use.”