Like many seniors, Mina Garman, 73, has seen technology advance by leaps and bounds, so it can be a little intimidating to learn computer programs.
Garman said that in her day, a manual typewriter “was considered an advanced tool … In graduate school, the thing that helped me out was Wite-Out. These kids today don’t even know what (that is); then I really feel old. So, how wonderful it is that we have computers to use.”
Like computers, new phones can also be confusing.
“My old one couldn’t text; it couldn’t do anything,” she said of upgrading to an iPhone. “Then I got this new phone, and it was just so overwhelming … I didn’t even know how to answer the phone.”
Garman turned to a new service, Senior CompuCare West LLC, which established itself in Las Vegas in July. Its instructors are 50 or older. Key to the company’s method is teaching the students in their homes and on their own devices. Senior CompuCare sent out an instructor who allowed Garman learn at her pace.
“It’s like having a personal trainer,” Garman said of the service. “They watch you; they tell you, ‘Now try that again and see if that works for you.’ You need someone who can answer your specific questions, whether the computer or the phone … There’s nothing worse than trying to figure out something when you don’t even know the question to ask.”
Leanne Tilton, 66, has been using computers for 30 years but wanted to make herself more valuable to prospective employers.
“When you put in an application, they ask, ‘Do you know Quicken?’ ‘Do you know Excel?’ ‘Do you know PowerPoint?’ I had no idea how to go about learning them,” she said.
Tilton recalled how a big advancement in the electric typewriter years ago, power assist, made her job easier.
“So if you were doing, like, seven carbon copies, it would make (the lever strike) a bit harder.”
Tilton said she liked taking instruction from someone of her own generation. Some people learn best in a group setting, but she learns best in a one-on-one setting.
“It’s not some teacher standing in a classroom going, ‘OK, this is how you do this. And this is how you do that.’ And then you’re lost,” Tilton said. “And the other thing is that (the instructor) was really good about being patient when I didn’t understand something. She explained (how to make) it to work three different ways. If I understand the reason why I have to do it, then it’s easier for me to remember. I have a logical mind, but you have to put it to work.”
Donna Lee, Senior CompuCare West franchise owner, said as many as four seniors can be taught at one time and still keep that one-on-one approach.
Using data from the first franchise in Florida, she estimated that more than 75 percent of seniors prefer to be taught in their homes.
“They’re using their own computer,” she said, “which makes a big difference. If you go to the library or a similar location, it may not be anything like what you have. So, if you’re taught (somewhere else), then you have to go home and extrapolate, you know, ‘How do I do this here?’ ”
Lee said more and more companies are going paperless, expecting clients to go online for information such as booking a flight for web-only fares, viewing account statements and refilling prescriptions. Even Social Security is done online.
The cost for in-home instruction is $35 an hour with a two-hour minimum. Through Oct. 31, the company is running a first-hour-free promotion.
For more information, call 421-4414 or visit seniorcompucare.com, which has a link to the Las Vegas franchise.
Join the Club
Another way seniors can learn is through the Las Vegas PC Computer Club, lvpcug.org.
It serves clients valleywide. Annual membership dues are $30.
For those new to computers, the club offers a novice meeting from 1 to 3 p.m. the second Saturday of the month in the NV Energy building’s Wengert room, 6226 W. Sahara Ave., near Jones Boulevard. Meetings are generally suspended when the winter holiday season arrives. The next one is scheduled for Oct. 13.
Coverage can include desktop publishing, communications, databases, programming, spreadsheets, word processing and beginner topics, using easy-to-understand terms. Following the meeting, a question and answer session is held for specific programs.
Program leader Charles Frederick said the novice meetings are very popular, making up about a third of the group’s programs.
PC Users Group said meetings are getting smaller all the time.
“When we, as seniors, started it many years ago, there was no other place to learn about computers unless you had paid somebody at $20, $30 an hour,” Frederick said. “So this group was formed to help each other and anybody else in the community that they could. What you find now is that our grandchildren who were learning about computers in kindergarten … The seniors can ask a child or a grandchild for help.”
City-sponsored computer classes
The city of Las Vegas offers computer instruction at each of its senior centers. There are roughly a dozen different classes.
“They’re pretty darn popular,” said Kathy Burkhardt, coordinator for the program. “Intro to Computers is nearly always full because they’re always learning. Some people will take the class a couple of times, a couple of months, just so they’re really comfortable with it.”
Intro to Computers offers eight hours of instruction, spread out over the month. She said the document class is another in which the city sees repeat students. The most popular one is Intro to Computers.
“Only because, I think, there are so many of our seniors who were out of the work field by the time computers came to be on their desk,” Burkhardt said.
Email and Internet classes are also popular. Classes fill quickly.
Classes have a cap at nine people so that everyone can sit at a computer. The class can handle more if people bring their laptop as there is a wireless signal at each center.
Classes use a PowerPoint presentation or a projector that shows students exactly what screen they should be looking at on the computer in front of them.
The economy has prompted people to sign up for a resume class.
“We’ll do resume building, resume writing, interviewing skills for jobs; these are all things they have to do by computer because most job applications now are online,” Burkhardt said.
Currently, the city has a grant through the Urban League that runs through February and can offer some classes at no cost. Other classes average about $30.
There is a Skyping class for those who want to connect with family and speak to them in real time via computer.
To register for a city class, go to the senior center of your choice to sign up in person or visit recreation.lasvegas
nevada.gov and search under “computer.”
Libraries go beyond books
The Las Vegas-Clark County Library District offers free computer classes specifically for seniors at various branches: Centennial Hills, Enterprise, Las Vegas, Rainbow, Sahara West and Windmill. The lineup of topics includes: Facebook 101; eBook Downloading 101; Computers 101; Word Processing; Internet; email; and Excel.
Visit tinyurl.com/seniorcompclass for the current list of classes. A register link is at the bottom of the page.
There is a cap of 10 people for each class. Classes run 10:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.
Registration is required and can also be accessed online at lvccld.org. Click the seniors link at the right of the page and then the computer classes link at the left of the page. Registration for classes begins the first of every month for the following month. December’s classes, for example, require signing up Nov. 1.
The classes are popular, said Karen Bramwell Thomas, library public relations manager.
“After a class opens up for registration, it usually fills up within a couple of weeks,” she said. “When the class is full, a waiting list of up to five people is offered.”
On the website, the number of people on the waiting list is displayed next to the name of the class.
The entire class is hands-on with each person using a laptop computer. Seniors can bring their own laptop if they want.
For more information, call 507-6300.
Classes from basics to advanced also are offered through the Henderson Public Libraries. For more information on courses offered in Henderson, visit mypubliclibrary.org or call the Paseo Verde Library, 280 S. Green Valley Parkway, at 492-7252; the Gibson Library, 100 W. Lake Mead Parkway, at 565-8402; or the Green Valley Library, 2797 N. Green Valley Parkway, at 207-4260.
Partnership strives to bring all online
Connect Nevada, in partnership with JOIN Inc. and the Nevada State Library and Archives, has launched the Every Community Online (ECO) program. The program offers free computer and Internet training and leaves participants eligible for discounted computers and home broadband services.
“The Every Community Online program focuses on improving broadband access, adoption and use across the entire state,” said Lindsey Niedzielski, Connect Nevada’s state program manager.
According to Connect Nevada research, more than 126,000 Nevada adults, or 19 percent, say a lack of digital skills and knowledge of how to use a computer is the main reason they don’t have one at home.
ECO incentives, such as the discounted computers, are expected to result in more patrons for broadband access.
For more information, contact Connect Nevada at firstname.lastname@example.org or Niedzielski at 775-343-9600.
Find help online
Some Internet sites offer classes. Tutorials for software and social media such as Twitter and Facebook can be found at gcflearnfree.org/computers. The lessons can be accessed at no charge. It runs the gamut from computer basics to PowerPoint and social media.
Another teach-yourself site, edulearn.com, is an online video course. The cost starts at $14.95 a month.
The lessons are designed to be easily understood, but students can play, pause or rewind them as needed.
Contact Summerlin/Summerlin South View reporter Jan Hogan at email@example.com or 387-2949.