Area seniors hone technology skills and become more internet savvy
By Lori Adler, reporter
A new program is being offered by the Aging and Disability Resource Center (ADRC) of Oneida county to help seniors become more comfortable with technology. Thanks to a grant from Bader Philanthropies, the nonprofit group, Generations on Line, is now able to expand its popular “Sip & Swipe Cafes” into the Northwoods.
Oneida county (along with Iron, Lincoln, Price and Vilas counties) received a grant which provided the tablets and learning materials to conduct Sip & Swipe Cafes. According to the Pew Research Center, there are more than 26,500 older adults living in these five northern Wisconsin counties, and 39% of these people are considered digitally illiterate. This prevents seniors from interacting with family, accessing online healthcare information and finding necessary resources. During these informal training sessions, seniors are able to learn about tablet use and gain some internet skills.
Generations on Line, creator of Sip & Swipe, developed a free application to make hands-on learning easier for older adults. The app, called Easy Tablet Help for Seniors, comes in both Apple and Android versions and features large print and easy-to-follow on-screen instructions.
The class is a total of four hours, generally divided into two separate sessions, and covers basic tablet use such as swiping, tapping and resizing windows as well as utilizing the on-screen keyboard. The class, however, also covers internet safety, downloads and the use of secure websites when entering personal information plus emailing, texting and video calling. There is even information on taking photos, using other apps and watching You Tube videos.
While the training app could be followed on one’s own, the idea of the café is to provide some guidance from several volunteer coaches who are there to offer further explanation and help anyone who gets confused along the way.
“It’s self-guided, but we can’t guide ourselves,” Michael Brand jokes. Brand, along with several other seniors, took part in the Rhinelander ADRC’s first café this past week. All participants seemed to find the first class both enjoyable and educational.
The program, according to Rhinelander ADRC activities and volunteer coordinator Stephanie Swanson, is quite popular, with over 30 people having already registered for upcoming cafes. More are being planned as needed. For those who may need more than the four hours of class time to master their new technology skills, Swanson said the tablets at the ADRC are available for extra practice time when classes are not in session.
The cafes at the Rhinelander ADRC are currently running on Mondays, 1-3 p.m., and Wednesdays, 10 a.m.-12 p.m., but it is possible to schedule other times as well. In addition, cafes will be offered through the ADRC at two other locations: Demmer Library (Three Lakes) and Minocqua Library (Minocqua). Anyone wishing to attend any of the cafes should contact the Rhinelander ADRC at 715-369-6170 for more details and registration information.