'Seniors become computer savvy'

Volunteers and staff at Nevada Rural Housing Authority were busting buttons with pride during their first SeniorNet Computer Learning Center graduation Friday. Thirteen seniors graduated with certificates of completion.

SeniorNet is a program designed for seniors to learn all aspects of a personal computer. Putting aside the technical jargon, the six-week course concentrated on practical uses from pushing the start button to setting up a database.

The students now have time in the computer room where they can communicate - through e-mail - with their children, grandchildren and friends. For some, a whole new world that has opened.

"When they (seniors) started, they were so totally intimidated by the computer, they kept saying, 'I can't do this, I can't do this,' " said Carol Short, service coordinator for NRHA Computer Learning Center.

"By the end of the class, they were showing each other what they could do."

Short said when seniors were learning the Paint program, everyone struggled to learn. One woman, though, drew a beautiful freehand scene with butterflies and flowers.

"It was absolutely gorgeous," said Short. "And she had never been on a computer before. She took to it like a duck to water."

Doris Knapp, 76, had worked on a computer when she was secretary for a church for 12 years.

"I posted church finances and balanced the books," said Knapp. "I enjoyed it very much. So when the class was offered, I wanted to take it to learn more, to do more with it.

"It has been a wonderful experience. The manuals are very clear and easily understood. After you learn the technical jargon, everything falls into place."

Knapp will now be a helper for a second set of classes. She credited her instructors, Jackie Stroud, Melissa Dyer-Cobb and Mary Topping, with keeping the students together and walking them through the various programs.

"If someone wanted to learn to use the computer, I'd tell them, 'Please, sign up and take the class.' It's a lot of fun. You learn games as well as important stuff. Solitaire is excellent for eye and hand coordination."

"What has happened to these people who have been in class has been remarkable," said Short.

"One lady, who has macular degeneration, worked with a program we have that magnifies the mouse and the images on the screen. She just went to town with everything."

Short said each class has room for six people. They graduated 13 from the first three classes (three left before graduating due to illness).

"Learning to use a computer has made such a big difference in their lives. One lady had a job as soon as she learned the computer; the class became second nature to her. And some of them didn't even know how to type, but they get on the computer and just go at it."

Short attributes the students' success to the 12 volunteers. Not only do they offer individual knowledge of the computers, they offer information on taxes, accounting and photography.

Half of the volunteers from the first session of classes came from the Retired and Senior Volunteer Program in Carson City.

"I've enjoyed the class so much I'm going to take it again," said 78-year-old Veronica Roberts, of Carson City.

"I think I'll need to take it again just to retain everything. And the people are just wonderful. They bend over backwards to help you out."

Students must be 55 years of age or older. Cost is $30 for membership, plus $20 for the six-week session. All work materials will be furnished.

Volunteer instructors and coaches are needed. Instructors will have a brief training session regarding SeniorNet. Depending on their interest and expertise, they may be teaching, observing, coaching or helping.

Betty Heglie

Elizabeth Humm

Jane Grider

Mary McFarland

Veronica Roberts

Pauline Phelps

Stewart Phelps

Ellie Greer

Betty Dahle

Joyce Duncan

Jean Reynolds

Pat Watts

Doris Knapp

What: SeniorNet Computer Learning Center

Where: Nevada Rural Housing Authority, 2100 California St.

When: Next class begins Sept. 10

Cost: $20 plus $30 membership fee

Information: Carol Short at 887-1747, ext. 232


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