Some Alachua County seniors are catching up to their tech-savy grandkids with the help of computer classes.
These seniors are bridging the Internet age gap, according to a new Gallup poll. Sixty five percent of seniors are using the Internet, which is up from the 33 percent in 2002.
But seniors lag behind the 87 percent of Internet users over the age of 18.
Sam Ulbing, 72, teaches computer and technology classes at the Senior Recreation Center in Gainesville, at 5701 NW 34th Blvd.
Ulbing offers computer skill improvement classes at the recreation center two to three times a week. Since he began teaching in May, Ulbing has had more than 100 participants attend his class. He averages about 18 participants for his group classes and currently has a waiting list for his hands-on iPad class, which he limits to five participants.
His students range in age from 60 to 85.
Florida had the lowest average of non-connected Internet individuals in the southeast, according to census data.
“I’m so surprised that I have so many people who are interested,” Ulbing said.
In his class “Tablet/Smartphone: What they Can Do for You,” Ulbing shows participants applications that can be helpful to seniors.
Ulbing teaches participants how to create grocery lists and medication reminders; how to locate lost devices; and how to find stores and restaurants around while traveling. Ulbing said tablets and applications make Internet use easier for everyone.
“Obviously there is stuff you have to do on a computer, but the tablets are much more user friendly,” he said.
Ulbing said the health app called iTriage is particularly useful for seniors. The app provides information about health-related issues, including updates on medication availability and a symptom checker.
Helane Davis, 85, attended Ulbing’s technology class to learn how to use her Android smartphone and tablet her daughter gifted her. She hopes to use both to communicate with her 17-year-old granddaughters.
Davis, a retired teacher, said she has acquaintances her age who aren’t interested in being online. She said the fear of technology in seniors comes mostly from the pace at which it changes.
“It’s difficult reprogramming your brain to think,” she said. “Technology moves so fast, and your family can help, but they just do it. They don’t show you step by step.”
But not all seniors see a need for technological advancement. Jerry Ashwood, 73, of Gainesville, said he’s used the same computer and operating system since 1983. Ashwood uses the Internet for email and search engines.
“I used computer software years ago, I started with something basic, I never moved on to anything more modern because it worked for me.” he said.
Davis has gone to four computer-related classes at the Senior Recreation Center, and she said the repetition and group setting help her feel confident in using her devices.
“I’m encouraged when I’m at the classes to see other seniors who are learning to be more knowledgeable,” she said.