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Photo by: Sarah Wilson - Team Elliott instructor Joel Fuller teaches iPad basics at Serenades by Sonata in Longwood.
Winter Park / Maitland Observer Wednesday, Oct. 1, 2014 4 years ago

More seniors learn to say hi-tech hellos

Seniors learn to Skype
by: Brittni Larson

Seniors are exploring the world of technology more and more: six in 10 adults 65 or older go online and just a little less than half have their own high-speed internet connection, according to newly released data from the Pew Research Center. But it’s not always easy for them to dive in. Most surveyed, 77 percent, said they’d need someone to help walk them through the process of using a new technology device.

Dealing with confusing pop ups, emailing, opening photo attachments of their newly arrived grandchildren, even turning a computer on can be a challenge for seniors who didn’t grow up with this type of technology at their fingertips.

“The basic things that we take for granted,” said Didier Nicholas, CEO and founder of Senior CompuCare.

Senior CompuCare, based in Longwood, offers technology training for seniors, by seniors, in their own homes. Trainers can teach them anything from basic computer knowledge like emailing and creating documents to joining Facebook or using a smartphone.

Virginia Thayer, 93, of Casselberry, is one of those seniors.

“I have absolutely no intuition about what to do with these buttons,” Thayer said. “When I grew up you just didn’t go around pressing buttons because rather bad things happened, and so I’ve had to learn that it’s not going to blow up the computer if I press the wrong button.”

Thayer uses her computer to share poetry with her writing group in Massachusetts. But many times, she’d save her work — which the computer has made much easier to accomplish and edit with the handy “delete” button — but then never knew where to find it again.

“There’s a helplessness,” said Shirley E. Mayor, senior vice president of operations and licensing for Central Florida for Senior CompuCare, “With seniors especially they’re frantic; they really don’t know where to turn, they don’t know what to do and how to do it.”

Senior CompuCare sends a senior trainer to your home to teach you how to use any high-tech gadget you’re having trouble with, including computers, laptops, tablets and smart phones. Visit or call 888-625-1855 for more information. Team Elliott Education offers their senior programming, which includes art, technology and music classes, at assisted living communities across Florida. Visit or call 407-257-2303 for more information.

Mayor, 62, is Thayer’s tech trainer, and has helped her find, organize and share her work with confidence.

It’s a rewarding job, Mayor said. She’s even helped a grandfather see his daughter-in-law and grandson for the very first time by teaching him how to Skype, or video chat, with them.

That was the first Thayer had ever really heard about Skyping, and Mayor’s story seemed to pique her interest; she might do it with her daughters who live in Texas and Illinois, she said. While technology is intimidating at times, Thayer said she sees the value in trying to understand it.

“It keeps you in touch with the world and what’s going on, and your friends and your family and just the whole world, because the whole world is using computers and if you want to live in it and understand it you have to be a part of it I think,” she said. “The only alternative is to just withdraw into your rocking chair and I kind of avoid that.”

It’s also quite valuable for seniors who might be past retaining something new, but aren’t beyond enjoying the experience technology can give. At the Oak View Assisted Living at John Knox Village in Orange City, they set up a Skype station for residents to use, and are teaching them how to use it, teaching them the future of communication, step-by-step, for the first time.

At Serenades by Sonata, a memory care assisted living facility in Longwood, all of its residents have some form of dementia, but nearly all of them enjoy “Tech Team” classes put on by Team Elliott Education, a company that provides senior programming at assisted living communities across Florida.

Residents perk up in the halls when they see Team Elliott instructor Joel Fuller coming through wheeling his cart stacked up with iPads, and he greets each of them by name.

The seniors at Serenades mostly learn on iPads, and use Elliott-developed apps, participating at their own levels. Those at higher levels use styluses to match state shapes with their names and solve crossword puzzles. Others use the stylus to flick bowling balls on the screen down the electronic ally to knock down pins, or flip a series of tiles to try and find photos that match underneath.

It’s a way for them to keep their minds active, feel successful and even connect with family members, who bring their gadgets as a way to interact when talking isn’t always possible, said Julie Fernandez, executive director of the facility.

“We look for what those residents’ potential still is, what are they able to do, how can we still engage them at the level that they’re able to engage in and help them retain that for as long as possible,” Fernandez said. “And so being engaged, staying smart, allowing that intellectual stimulation in whatever form we can get is a benefit to residents in ways you can’t even put into words.”

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