Senior citizens keep minds sharp using tablet technology

A few seniors are proud to call themselves students. Their lesson? Tablet technology.

“I need to learn what’s happening in the 21st century,” said student Wilma Greason.

Wilma is participating in a free, 10-week program called Successful Aging and Technology. It’s part of SCAN, which stands for Social Community Activities Network. The nonprofit’s mission is to provide an active support system for those over the age of 50.

“Many people come to us and ask, ‘Why do you want to be in this program?’ I would ask you. And most people would say, ‘I want to get with it,'” said SCAN Program Director Andrea Tarr.

Students learn everything from how to turn a tablet on and off, email, social media, Skype, how to Google and more.

“And some of them still want to get a job, or they want to know about what their doctor prescribed, or they just want to know things that they haven’t been able to know. And now, they can Google it,” said Tarr.

“I want to be independent, and not growing up with a computer like now, I needed help big time,” said Port Monmouth resident Madeline Bennett.

Bennett jumped at the opportunity to take the class. She graduated this past summer with a new tablet. SCAN is able to provide free, 10-inch tablets to qualifying students. The program is funded by the Affordable Housing Alliance.

“A free tablet! Who does that?” Bennett said.

The Pew Research Center indicates roughly one-third of seniors say they own tablet computers. One of Bennett’s favorite discoveries?

“Woah! No more going to the store! Not that I don’t like doing that, don’t kid yourself. Let’s face it, a woman likes to shop, but doing it online and being able to see things before you go to the store is just mind boggling!” she said.

SCAN has run Successful Aging and Technology for three years. It’s part of the nonprofit’s efforts to reach out to the community. This fall, there are two different classes — one in Freehold and the other in Bradley Beach. Students meet weekly with instructors and volunteer technology coaches. Participants apply and interview for the class.

“Successful Aging is really the do all and end all to keep people in their homes. The other is technology is here to stay. And we’re finding that our funders are very happy if people are engaged and have good information that they will stay in their homes longer and be informed and that is what this is about,” said SCAN Executive Director Pat Bohse.

“I wanted to learn all the new technology and be current,” said student Diane Butchin.

The 77-year-old says she feels young at heart and looks forward to feeling more confident after she completes the course.

“I just like to know things. I don’t like to be left behind,” she said.

The course aims to empower students through the use of technology, says Tarr.

“There are so many things that this program teaches you to still be self-sufficient,” Bennett said.

Apart from the technology aspect of the class, students are also given resources and strategies on how to manage their health and wellness. For example, they learn how to communicate with their doctor effectively. They’re also given tips on how to get a good night’s sleep, and they learn about the importance of physical activity.

Lillie Hendry is thrilled she is still learning. She sat in the same room more than 70 years ago when she was a student at what’s now called the Court Street School Education Community Center.

“The difference is technology. Our technology was the blackboard,” said Hendry.

A lot has changed over the years, but for these students their thirst for knowledge hasn’t wavered.

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