Savvy seniors are becoming more and more digitally connected. A recent Pew Institute internet study reports that 46 percent of people over 65 own a smartphone. Another Pew study finds that boomers are now far more likely to own a smartphone than they were in 2011 (67% now versus 25% then); about half (52%) of Boomers now say they own a tablet computer, and a majority (57%) now use social media.
Embracing new technology, however, can be scary; some studies say only 18 percent of those over 65 learn technology on their own. Luckily, you don’t have to. Whether you need to learn how to use a mouse, set up a website for your business, learn online banking, be a digital advocate for a cherished cause, or learn the latest in social media, you’ve got a place to go for free, in-person tech help: the first-of-its kind Senior Planet Exploration Center in Chelsea, or its affiliates in upstate New York, Montgomery County, MD, Denver Colorado, and its satellites in the metropolitan area and beyond, with San Antonio, TX soon to arrive.
For example, any Senior Planet member can stop by for a ‘Tech Talk” at the Senior Planet Exploration Center in Chelsea – a free 20 minute tutorial given by one of the Chelsea Exploration Center’s patient, tech-savvy volunteers (this subject to availability, so call first). There’s no requirement to be a ‘tech geek” to be a Senior Planet member…in fact, a perennial favorite class is “Computer Basics,” which is created specifically for anyone who has never turned on a computer, or touched a mouse.
“Our courses are designed to accommodate members at all different levels,” explains Chelsea Senior Planet’s Training Manager Elizabeth Pooran. “We stay at a steady pace and have a welcoming environment. There’s no such thing as a ‘dumb question'” she stresses, “and everyone in the classroom gets whatever attention they need.” All Senior Planet curricula are designed such that users learn necessary and basic skills step-by-step, with many opportunities to practice and ask questions.
Membership, which is free to adults over 60, offers perks such as free classes, frequent workshops and one 20-minute Tech Talk per day about a specific computer, tablet, or smartphone-related issue. The trainers and volunteer staff earn high marks for aptitude and attitude, members say.
During each five or ten week class (spanning everything from Computer Basics to Social Media and more) – each member gets a free, comprehensive course book to keep. “The books allow students to continue practicing,” says Pooran, ‘but trainers also make sure to review the previous lesson in each class.”
Senior Planet membership offers more than free five or ten week classes, however. Member Miriam J. Allen told a Senior Planet reporter “It’s a place where I’m not threatened by not knowing new things. They trained me, but they also helped me with my confidence. It’s just a game-changer for people of my generation.
Want to get your tech on?
The Chelsea Senior Planet Exploration Center at 127 West 25th Street, Manhattan, is hosting a “Course Information Fair” on Friday, September 21 from 10:00am to 1:00pm and Monday, September 24 from 1:00pm to 4:00pm. “The Course Information Fair gives members the chance to ask questions about classes for the upcoming quarter,” says Aaron Santis, Senior Planet’s Program Manager. “Members can come find out what the different courses are, what skills they need to participate, how to register and learn which course is best for them.”
Registration for the Fall Quarter in Chelsea must be done in person and will take place Tuesday, September 25 (Beginner), Wednesday September 26 (Intermediate) and Thursday September 27 (Advanced), starting at 10:15 am (doors open at 10 am, get there early for a first-come, first-served spot). The Chelsea Exploration Center will be closed Friday, September 28.
Courses in all locations begin the first week in October unless otherwise noted, and run through December unless otherwise noted. If you have questions about your skills or ability to participate in a particular course in New York City, please call 646-590-0615, or come to the center for one of our Course Information Fairs.
Senior Planet has also partnered with more than three dozen community-based sites around NYC to build and maintain state-of-the-art technology labs that support the needs of the diverse communities in which they are located. These labs are open to the public and often host Senior Planet courses. Each lab is operated by its host organization, but serves as a satellite extension of the Manhattan center. Call the labs to find out their hours or get more information. You can find a list of the Senior Planet satellite labs here.
New this quarter:
This 10-week course aims to empower older adults as changemakers by teaching key leadership skills and strengthening analytical abilities. Participants will improve their online research skills, collaborate through Google docs and calendar, and use Twitter and other civic tech to reach their representatives. By the end of the course, participants will apply theory of change to begin developing a social campaign.