Teaching practical skills to inspire learning
Elermore Glen Retirement Village began their classes and one-on-one tutoring nine years ago under the Broadband for Seniors Program. They deliver small group computer classes for beginners and advanced students, as well as iPad classes. They have a few other unique offerings such as in-home setup services for tech equipment and supported shopping trips to purchase technology.
Susan, the digital mentor at Elermore Glen, believes in making the journey of learning a practical endeavour. Susan says, “I believe it’s very important for seniors to see a need to learn a new skill. If they can utilise practical tools to assist their lives, they see the reason for a computer. It then leads them forwards to want to try new things.”
The residents learn to use Microsoft Publisher by creating wallet-sized medication cards, in which Susan says, “We have had fabulous feedback from Ambulance NSW, Hampson’s Pathology and John Hunter Hospital.” She adds, “Family of residents who participate feel that we have kept their mum or dad young. We use Excel to make a Record Book to keep their information in one A5 folder. This way, residents never miss a bill or forget to register their car.”
They have a group of nine ladies all over the age of 86 who come every week - rain, hail or shine. Several are memory challenged but enjoy the company, comradeship and morning tea. They still battle away at their computers and every lesson is a new lesson, but they love it and are so proud of themselves and their skills.
One learner in particular, Jean Bye, just celebrated her 90th birthday. Susan tells the story, “Jean was my second student 9 years ago, lining up on the very first day for computer lessons. She had never seen a computer up close but as an avid crafter, she had heard that it was easy to access crochet patterns on the internet. Well, Jean turned 90 last Saturday, she is slowing up a little now but still spends 6 or more hours per day on her computer or iPad. She emails family and friends, she surfs Pinterest, shops on eBay and craft websites, and has a PayPal account. She researched and booked a trip to Western Australia and she has also made videos of her holiday photos. She checks her telephone account online and downloads and prints craft patterns. She is just about to start online grocery shopping as she has lost the sight in one eye and is a bit wobbly on her feet. I am so proud of her and what she has achieved. All of these ladies and gentlemen are the reason I still do this every day as a volunteer for more than 9 years.”
Susan has even written manuals for both computers and iPads to supplement the lessons in her classes. “These manuals allow other residents to help our more memory-challenged residents since everyone does things in the same way.” Elermore Glen Retirement Village has been granted both an Activation grant and Building Digital Skills grant. They've used the funds to purchase printing supplies to produce their manuals. They’ve also purchased a Wi-Fi printer so residents can print from their own tablets or computers. Susan adds, “Without the grant funding we would not be able to afford the supplies to be able to do these things which push our students to want to try and learn new things.”
As a Network Partner delivering the Be Connected program, Susan says, “The only advice I can give is to build a family of your students. We help each other and we are there for each other. There are no words like “dumb, stupid or too old to try” allowed in my presence. Everyone will get it in the end. After 9 years of teaching, I can say that in every case, one day it finally clicks and they get it. You see a light in their eye and you know you have done a good job. There is nothing more rewarding.”