Techniques for Enabling the Older Population in Technology

Bean, C (2004) Techniques for Enabling the Older Population in Technology. JeLit 1(2).

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Abstract

Computer literacy is a pre-requisite for eLiteracy. However, there is a significant segment of the population which was virtually bypassed by the electronic revolution. These people are primarily retired or close to retirement, and are finding it increasingly necessary to have computer skills, yet due to the aging process, learning those computer skills is more difficult for them. This case study reports on how the staff of the North County Regional Library Computer Center addressed those issues and developed a series of classes for first time computer users. Based on research into issues in gerontology, such as cognitive and motor declines, as well as automaticity and semantic memory, the staff modified materials and techniques to create a beginning-level computer course consisting of four lessons, which has been offered by the Library since early 2003. Participants have ranged in age from middle-age to elderly (80+ years). Since participants must go through the instructors to register, classes have been limited to those who were total novices, with virtually no exposure to computers. While the course has been successful in enabling those who have “fallen through the cracks,” it is resource intensive. Recommendations for improvement, based on observation and participant feedback include using a different free e-mail provider and increasing the number of classes to five.