If you’re ever lost on the subway in Moscow, Miriam Allen’s a good person to know. That’s because the 61-year-old self-described lifelong learner studied the Cyrillic alphabet so she could read menus, street signs, and use public transportation when she visited Russia. She also speaks French and Spanish.
Up until last year, however, technology was not a language she was fluent in.
Miriam, a Brooklyn, N.Y., native who now lives in Riverdale in the Bronx, retired from her position as an urban planner for the federal government in early 2017. She had worked for 40 years but was ready for a part-time job that would offer her more freedom while she was still active.
After a very basic search on the job site indeed.com, which, thankfully, she did know how to do — she landed a new position within six weeks after just one phone interview and one in-person interview. There was just one problem: she wasn’t tech-savvy enough to do the job! So she turned to the Senior Planet Exploration Center for help.
Senior Planet: Tell us about your new job!
I’m a part-time operations manager for an urban planning and public policy consulting firm.
Senior Planet: When did it occur to you that learning technology could be such a game-changer?
By looking at job descriptions on indeed.com, I knew that I needed some training. Because when you work for the federal government you only know their system. I didn’t even know how to text. I never knew how to use a smartphone because I didn’t understand what made it smart!
Senior Planet: How did you take that all-important first step?
I knew enough to do a Google search for ‘free technology training in New York City’ and Senior Planet came up. I went there in March of 2017 and I fell in love with it immediately! I loved the way the space was laid out. It looked like a student lounge at college. I went to a workshop about the difference between an iPhone and an Android. I took a digital photography class. I learned about the cloud. I learned to text from a volunteer. And more!
Senior Planet: Was it intimidating being a “newbie”?
No. They treat everybody as an absolute beginner and also, you’re not intimidated by being around people who know more than you. 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.
Senior Planet: Did you have a favorite class?
Digital photography! I have 3,000 photos from my travels on my computer and on disks. Now I know how to edit and catalog them to share with my family and friends.
Senior Planet: What was the first day at your new job like?
They gave me a laptop and a password, I logged in, and then I needed to figure out what to do. And because of Senior Planet, I had the confidence to work all day, independently.
Senior Planet: You’ve come a long way, baby!
I have! My very first job was using an IBM Selectric typewriter. And now I can go on any laptop and use any software and communicate with people anywhere in the world to work or to have fun.
Senior Planet: What do you do when you’re not working or being a “techie” at Senior Planet?
I just want to have fun! I want to do things that I enjoy and have flexibility. So, I am a student at Lehman College in the Bronx. I’ve been taking piano lessons there for two semesters, and doing community work with my church. I am going to London for my next birthday to meet cousins that I have never met. I will have High Tea on my birthday wearing my tiara and hope that Queen Elizabeth will give me some of the Crown Jewels that I deserve!
Senior Planet: What’s next on your technology bucket list?
I want to learn what a podcast is and how to listen to it. I want more Google training. And, I have never used an Apple product in my life. I don’t know anything about them because they were never used in my work life.
Senior Planet: Any advice for Senior Planet readers and members?
Don’t wait too long to retire. People wait too long and then they’re not physically or mentally able to embrace new things.
Senior Planet: What does ‘aging with attitude’ mean to you?
Living like a teenager! I go to school. I visit my friends. I embrace new ideas. I enjoy new experiences with complete freedom. I’m living the dream now!
To find out more about Senior Planet’s free fall quarter classes, watch for an upcoming announcement of the Senior Planet Exploration Center’s Course Information Fair sessions at 127 West 25th Street (between 6th and 7th Avenues) in Manhattan and registration information for all Senior Planet locations.