Clark County, Washington offers technical training for seniors


(TNS) — You don’t have to be a certain age to feel overwhelmed by the frenetic pace of technology.

But it certainly contributes to that special feeling of humiliation when your children or even your grandchildren walk you through this simple 27-step process to set up the new miracle gadget or service that is sure to improve your life.

If only.

Even Clark College tech instructor Charles Jackson, who teaches adult classes on computer basics and smartphones, said he struggled to help his parents adjust to the digital curve. technological learning.

Part of the challenge is purely technical – like teaching them how to press screen icons that behave like buttons – but another is convincing their seniors that getting up to speed with technology really adds value to life. , Jackson said.

The coronavirus pandemic has made this clear and unexpected for many. Tech-savvy baby boomers are quickly becoming Zoomers to stay in touch with family, friends, churches, and other social supports via live streaming. A new army of FaceTiming and Googling grandmas have refuted any notion that they can’t handle tech, or that screen time automatically equals zombie time.


While screen time can harm brain development in young people and increase emotional, social and attention deficit issues, the exact opposite may be true for older adults who crave stimulation and stimulation. connection, according to a research article published in the June 2020 issue of Dialogues in Clinical Neurosciences.

Brain imaging shows that older adults who learn online skills “show significant increases in brain neural activity,” according to the article. “Certain computer programs and video games can improve memory, multitasking skills, fluid intelligence, and other cognitive abilities.”

According to the article, older adults who received training in computers and internet use reported less loneliness, depression and isolation, as well as a greater sense of control over their lives.

“The learning technology comes from that same part of the brain where you learn a new language,” Jackson said. “It can be scary at first, but it builds freedom and confidence. When people learn new things, I can hear the basics falling into place.”


You can’t set anything up if you don’t have the equipment.

“Many seniors aren’t online at all or don’t have access to high-speed internet,” said Breanne Swanson, community services supervisor at the Southwest Washington Regional Agency on Aging and Disabilities. . “Smartphones also fall into this category.”

The coronavirus pandemic has underscored the digital divide between those who enjoy easy access to the internet and those who don’t, either because they can’t afford it or because they can’t understand it. , Swanson said.

Fortunately, great resources to get you online are available, although they aren’t well-known, Swanson said.

A large permanent government affordable connectivity program launched on January 1 that replaces a temporary, pandemic-focused program. So has a campaign called Aging Connected that is working to bring high-speed Internet service to 1 million older Americans.

The Affordable Connectivity Program is for people who meet low-income limits (200% of federal poverty guidelines, currently $25,760 for a single person and $53,000 for a family of four). It can provide a discount of up to $30 per month on internet service and up to $75 per month for households on tribal lands.

Eligible households can also receive a one-time rebate of up to $100 toward the purchase of a laptop, desktop, or tablet from participating vendors if they contribute $10 to $50 at the purchase price.

Log on to the Affordable Connectivity Program by visiting, a user-friendly website created by AARP and its subsidiary Older Adults Technology Services.

But there’s that common and infuriating Catch-22: to get help logging in, it seems like you have to be online already. Not with Aging Connected, Swanson said, where you can just pick up the phone and talk to a human about your needs.

The phone number for Aging Connected is 877-745-1930.


“It’s not just the over-50 crowd,” said Swanson, who is in her 30s and struggles to read QR-coded virtual restaurant menus with her smartphone.

“The evolution of technology is a real problem for so many people,” she said.

Swanson recommends two resources if you are somehow connected but still having difficulty. One is a series of short videos aimed at seniors that was sponsored by the nonprofit Southwest Washington Accountability Community of Health.

Simply put, the six-part “Technology Mindset” series examines the attitude of powerlessness that keeps some people from mastering technology.

The videos use cooking as a parallel to computers: if you’re proficient at cooking, making an occasional mistake doesn’t stop you from making another meal.

“The only way to learn is to experiment and play,” explains video #3. “Don’t worry, you won’t break it.”

The “Technology Mindset” videos also provide some beginner-level computer refreshers, such as how screen icons work, how to enlarge the print size on your screen, how to use Google to browse the Internet, and how (and why) to place the videoconference. with friends, family and health care providers.

Another AARP project is, a large-scale effort to make technology work for and with seniors, not against them. SeniorPlanet’s free video library is comprehensive, covering everything from going online and using social media to booking rides on Lyft. SeniorPlanet also offers frequent live sessions.


Most people who take Charles Jackson’s “Personal Computer Basics” course at Clark College are in their 40s and older, he said. Many are retirees who have never needed a computer for work. Some don’t know what to do with it now.

“‘Computer Basics’ is very basic,” he said. “You will learn to use a keyboard and a mouse. You will learn to navigate the basic functions of the Windows 10 system: open applications, create files.”

Jackson takes as much time as junior students need, he said.

“Some are really new to it. Explaining ‘left click’ and ‘right click’ on the mouse can take 20 minutes.”

Other students already have some familiarity with computers and want to develop their skills, he said. For them, Jackson teaches second- and third-stage computer classes at Clark that cover Word documents, spreadsheets, presentations, logging in, and using email.

“I sometimes hear, ‘I need this because I’m tired of asking my kids to help me,'” he said.

“Optimizing Your Android Phone” is probably Jackson’s most popular course with seniors, he said.

“Everyone in there has a cellphone and they’re all doing something with it, but I’m bringing out a lot of uses that they had no idea,” he said.

Jackson said he loves how this class becomes curiosity-driven.

“I get a lot of questions about security, a lot of questions about the cloud, a lot of questions about using apps for different things. The older generation actually do a lot on their phones,” he said .

Jackson reminds students that their phone or computer is just a vessel. Once you learn how to operate it, the software you load can take you anywhere you want to go.

“You have to move the mental muscle a bit. You have to start exercising it,” he said. “I meet a certain part of the older generation that doesn’t want technology to interfere with their lives: ‘I don’t want it to disrupt what I do and how I do it.'”

“I use my phone lesson to express that it can and should help improve your lifestyle, not hurt it. If you love gardening, I can show you how to use your phone to research gardening information. I can show you how to find the best times to plant things. After I show you, you can do it yourself.

Enrollment opens in March for Jackson’s next set of technical classes at Clark College, which begins in April.


FVRLibraries has suspended popular courses covering computer basics and other tech topics during the coronavirus pandemic, according to director of public services Amy Lee.

But library staff always answer questions and offer as much help as possible on a one-to-one basis.

“We have to pause in-person programs, but we’re still here to help as best we can,” Lee said. “Staff provide assistance to anyone based on their needs, including seniors, in branch or over the phone. Anecdotally, most of the questions we get from older customers are about using their devices or how to download eBooks or audiobooks. »

Meanwhile, she says, the library’s website has some great technology resources for beginners. Visit, select Computers and Technology and “55+” for the public. This can hook you up with a tutorial on using a mouse and, a library of other helpful resources for computer beginners.

Need a hotspot?

If you have an internet-ready laptop but no connection, try borrowing an access point from the library. A hotspot is a portable Wi-Fi hotspot that operates via a cellular signal.

Library hotspots only work where Verizon and AT&T cell service is available. You can borrow a hot spot for up to three weeks.

All library locations offer free on-site Wi-Fi.

©2022 The Columbian (Vancouver, Washington). Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.


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