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Teaching Seniors

Page history last edited by Kunal Malhotra 10 years, 3 months ago


Understanding learning styles, limitations and basic fear of the unknown (technology) is critical to conducting successful training classes for seniors. Share your experiences and your tips and tricks while gaining insight from others working with seniors.  Make sure to take good notes below!


Time: Monday 10:15-11:15


Location: Roxy Room


Facilitator: Andrew Lowenstein, Connected Living & Thomas Kamber, Older Adults Technology Services




Key Questions for Panel Discussion:


-       How can we get seniors to address the core skills required for technology but in a low stress model for the senior?

-       How can you encourage seniors to be comfortable with the technology / not to be scared of breaking it?


Thomas Kamber, Older Adults Technology Services:

- This is more than trying to get seniors to use technology – there is an age revolution taking place in America – our demographics of seniors is going to double in the next number of years.
- How do empower our seniors to be more productive in their retirement years? What supports are needed / how do we address social isolation for seniors?
- Every community dynamic is different – use your own environments to see what works.
- OATS focused on providing content to the senior centers in New York City.
- OATS strives to have trainers who are not necessarily ‘technology’ people but rather individuals with excellent human skills / people skills with the patience to teach similar tasks with many seniors and the ability to wait with seniors as they learn and become more comfortable.
- Utilizing BTOP funds to make seniorplanet.org a meaningful location with content / stories / resources for seniors.
- Hard to overstate the difficulty / challenges in senior broadband adoption. A survey was conducted in NYC which showed that public housing residents generally had broadband adoption at 60% whereas seniors were at 5%.
- A key is creating a learning environment for seniors that is comfortable and accessible. It takes time to have seniors become comfortable with the technological dynamic of processes seemingly as simple as moving the mouse / double clicking, etc. 
- OATS spends 2-weeks / 4 sessions with allowing seniors to become comfortable with the mouse, keyboard and the general user skills to ensure they can gain other skills with a greater sense of empowerment.
- Tom, “It’s okay to feel anxious – this is new, it’s okay to have some fear.”


Andrew Lowenstein, Connected Living:

- Boston based. Started working in the public housing arena a few years ago. Connected Living is brining training to low-income seniors in both Boston, MA, Ohio and the West Side of Chicago.
- Challenges faced with the poor wiring and low broadband adoption frequently found in the public housing for seniors and other populations.


- A key challenge is relevancy, explaining what the Internet can do for individuals: connecting with family in different locations, YouTube and other content sites.


Question and Answer:


"Do you let seniors linger on a lesson or do you move them along?"

- Tom: we try to make our sessions as short as possible. We let folks evolve their skill-sets at their own pace, but we try to make sure that the sessions are short enough to allow seniors to move through the sessions without too much discomfort.

- Tom:  "There are these moments when people feel a dramatic sense of accomplishment."


- Google mouse & games, and you can find some excellent games for seniors to gain comfort with the mobility challenges for mouse.


"Can you discuss safe surfing / safe sites?"

- Tom: typically in the basic course seniors are in the lab session during the first few experiences - we don't want to scare seniors about what's on the web before they get a chance to really interact with the web. Our second level course, an advanced course with e-commerce / banking similatory, in that stage it's very important to have the seniors aware of what's Phishing / understanding what secure website is.


- Andrew: we created our own simplified portal - a simplified Facebook of sorts with a framed web browser with where you can go on the web and take folks on the web safely. We'll have moduals where seniors can be shown groupon.com and sites like that.

- You can also partner with your state's Attorney General's Office for training with what is on the web and what to be worried about on the Internet.


"What are some tips on safe sufing?"

- Tom: I would try to make the warnings as late as you can because you do not want to scare the user. Try to make them understand that if they are on a public accessing machine, accidentally clicking on a bad site or infected website, it's not that dangerous. We want to make sure that they know not to give to place personal information the Internet - we try to frame the challenges of keeping secure on the Internet as a common sense based evaluation, if you were walking down the street you wouldn't give a stranger your social security would you? So there's no reason to abandon the common sense you use in the regular world in the online space.




- What are you using technology for? What practices are you trying to have seniors learn about from the web?


- Tom: when the seniors reach this skill level, you encourage the senior to remain vigilant on checking their online bank statements / credit card statements to track any activity that is happening on their accounts.


- Connected Living: we encourage that seniors have a family member when they're online doing anything related to financial exchanges.


- I just finished a class with 5 seniors and their 'aha moment' was when they could finally send an email to their families.


- Andrew: when you can take the next step of using Skype for seniors and their families it's really amazing. A nice aspect of the group session, is that even if it's someone else's grand child they still feel that it's amazing.


- Andrew: what is your feedback on inter-generational teaching?

Comment: ids no longer call them 'old people,' and the seniors gain some appreciation and comfort with the high school students after they work with seniors, and the kids really grow from the experience as well.


- Tom: We have had great success with the inter-generational work at OATS. Volunteers and trainers from different age groups really creates some meaningful relationships and dialogue.


Comment: we try to make the jargon less confusing, so we created a 'basic terms and words' for the seniors to have access to.


Comments (2)

Ania S said

at 11:33 am on Jun 27, 2011

Here is another solution for users having difficulty with the mouse -- if you have a number pad on your keyboard, you can use those keys to control the mouse and click. Here is a link that explains how to enable this function.

calvonia@ullexfay.org said

at 1:44 pm on Jun 27, 2011

Some suggested sites to help seniors with mousing. .pbclibrary.org/mousing/intro.htm, freetypinggame.com, learninggamesforkids.com.

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