In April 2012, the Ukiah Senior Center received a Community Enrichment Grant of $3,000 from the Community Foundation of Mendocino County. Our grant project was to create a “hot spot” inside the main hall, allowing seniors to work from a wireless network on their laptops. The other significant portion of this grant was to create a computer lab equipped with new laptops for seniors to utilize during the class. The intention of the computer lab is to create a low-cost and friendly atmosphere with the latest technology. Use of the laptops allows people without computers a chance to determine if they want one of their own before making a purchase. We have helped several seniors with the setup of their newly-purchased computers by installing software, setting up their e-mails, installing printers, and connecting to a network. Once the basics are learned, seniors are excited to move on to surfing the Internet, researching genealogy, getting onto Facebook, e-mailing family and friends, and downloading and printing pictures. As technology expands, we see seniors migrating to iPads, utilizing Dragon (voice-activated software), establishing Skype accounts, using their iPhones, Kindle and camera. Others have learned to utilize the online features of banking and setting up their own budgets in Excel. A recent edition to our Lab is a large screen "Smart TV" which is used to assist the instructors in presentations and show seniors how to set-up and use this technology to link their devices at home.
We have knowledgeable instructors who are patient and do not teach from an agenda; they are there to answer specific questions from each student in the class. It is a relaxed atmosphere in which everyone can learn from each other.
Interpersonal skills are important for seniors to keep active and keep up with the world. Computers are a major form of communicating/interacting in this Information Age. Children, grandchildren and the rest of the world are communicating through computers and if you are working exclusively with paper and pen, you may be out of the loop. This can create a gap between the generations. It is a continuation of life-long learning.
Testimonials from Computer Lab participants
Ann and Jim Denham, students of the Computer Lab have said:
“Thank you for the computer classes. My husband and I have been taking the classes from Oni LaGioia and we have increased our knowledge significantly. I am a novice and have learned to put puzzles together, play games and look up information. My husband has learned to set up his own personalized book marks, create a library for his music and photos as well as look up information of interest on the Internet. We also have begun to use the Internet to shop. Oni is teaching us how to avoid scams (we hope).”
Dee Cope, another student, has written:
“Oni is extremely knowledgeable about all aspects of the computer. Above all, she is patient, a great attribute for a teacher. As a senior on a limited income, I am so grateful for this class. It has enabled me to use my computer in a skillful way at a very low cost. This class is fantastic. See for yourself!”