For a long time Jeni Williams, 60, didn’t worry about using a computer. Her husband conducted their finances online, paying bills and managing bank accounts.
Then he died – and Williams didn’t know what to do.
“I was totally dumbfounded,” she said. “I didn’t even know how to open the laptop.”
What she did, though, was show up Monday afternoon to her local library, intent on learning the computer skills necessary to function in an era of rapid modernization.
The Hawthorne Branch Library partnered with the Hawthorne Life Enrichment Center, Inc. to offer free six-week seminars to senior citizens wanting to learn basic computer skills.
Senior computer training is reflective of a nation-wide trend: six in 10 seniors now go online, according to the Pew Research Center. However, only 18 percent express comfort with learning how to use technology without assistance.
Most of the students in the class come in with little-to-no experience with computers. Wallace Russell, the instructor for the computer classes, says most of his students never had an opportunity to work with computers.
“They have not been exposed to the computer industry as much as younger generations,” Russell said. “When they first get started, they’re hesitant to turn the thing on. They think, ‘What do all these bits and pieces do?’”
The focus of the fifth class was Microsoft Word, but the seminar itself covers a variety of topics, ranging from how to plug in a laptop to Internet safety. But Williams recently discovered a popular aspect of the Internet: online shopping.
“My favorite thing to do on the computer is probably just look,” Williams said. “I found Google but I also found Amazon. My credit card shows it too.”
Over the course of six weeks, Russell has seen hesitancy develop into confidence and inexperience change into ability.
“Since I’m basically the same age as most of my students, it’s rewarding to see some people, who’ve never in their lives touched a computer, be able to do more than turn it on,” Russell said.