Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Computers and older adults

Tech Support:╴What kind of computer do you have?

Customer:╴A white one.

My bill paying job is working with older adults. I am the director of a program that markets to the older adults in the community. But more than just marketing I try to make use of the resources by trying to find programs and events and classes that will keep our older adults active and healthy. I feel that is the best way to market, by providing a quality service before you even need it.

While most people think older adults die from an illness, I believe the primary cause of death for most older adults is isolation. Once they become isolated, the chronic illnesses will begin a downward spiral and end in the most tragic way, slowly and alone.

So I plan all sorts of things to keep people coming and going.

Tech Support:╴Click on the 'MY COMPUTER' icon on the left of the screen.

Customer:╴Your left or my left?
A great way to stay connected, of course, is the computer. While we have had computer classes in the past, I really hoped to find a good curriculum that would have a set plan to teach older adults from the very beginning on to becoming pros at surfing, sending emails, and who knows what other find of damage.

I recently found what I thought was just the ticket as it was geared specifically for the older adult.

As soon as we announced the new class, it was filled. We added more classes. They were filled. We finally decided to change up the curriculum and just offer a one time two hour class, rather than a six week program, to try to handle our quickly growing waiting list.

So the very first class came and I decided I would take a few minutes to find out what they wanted to learn and try to evaluate their experience with the computer.

Out of my first of many classes of eight people, I found that in each class, a couple will have computers, most turned them off months ago, or the computer is so old they still needed a floppy to boot them up, or as is the majority in each class, this is the very first time they have sat in front of one.

OK, well the textbook starts with the expectation that they know the keyboard and how to use a mouse, so let's scrap that and see what we can do.

I have to say I really admire that these people will even try.

If I had not been sitting in front of computers for almost 25 years and still really know so little about them, I don't think I would even try to do what they want to do!
Tech Support:╴Hello.╴ How may I help you?
Male Customer:╴╴Hi .. . . I can't print.
Tech Support:╴Would you click on 'START' for me and . .╴
Customer:╴Listen pal; don't start getting technical on me.╴ I'm not Bill Gates!!!

Trying to teach someone how to use a mouse is very difficult, especially if they have some lack of sensation in their fingertips or a bit palsied. Besides, there is nothing else in your day to day life that requires the same types of motion and control that using a mouse does.

We struggle with it.

I even suggest for some to hold their hand steady with their other hand. If we can get past the first few clicks, then their interest tends to overtake their fear and they are interested in moving on.

BUT first, we have to log on.

The computers are in a lab that is used by lots of students so a log in is required.

Tech Support:╴Your password is the small letter 'a' as in apple, a capital letter 'V' as in Victor, and the number '7'.
Customer:╴Is that '7' in capital letters?
The password is a combination of a word, starting with a capital letter followed by a number. Oh my. I did not even realize how hard that capital letter can be, much less the number. There are always lots of questions on how to make it a capital, do I hit cap lock, you mean I have to hit the shift and the letter, and which numbers do I use?

Customer:╴I can't get on the Internet.
Tech Support:╴Are you absolutely sure you used the correct password?
Customer:╴Yes, I'm sure╴ I saw my co-worker do it.╴
Tech Support:╴Can you tell me what the password was?
Customer:╴Five dots.

This actually has happened more often than you would think. They don't understand why the letters and numbers they are typing do not appear!
I make them take a break in the middle of the class. I tell them I don't want them getting carpal tunnel, but I think the break is more for me than them. Each time we come back the screen saver has popped up and they are very distressed that their computer is broken. The screen is GONE!

Customer:╴I have a huge problem! My friend has placed a screen saver on my computer . . . but, every╴time I move my mouse, it disappears.

I told the class this story.

A woman customer called the Canon help desk because she had a problem with her printer.
Tech Support:╴Are you running it under windows?
Customer:╴No, my desk is next to the door, but that is a good point.╴ The man sitting next to me is by a window, and his printer is working fine!

They thought it was hysterical. Everyone knows you should not have your computer by the window! What would happen if there was a storm?

We haven't tackled email yet. That is next week.

Tech Support:╴How may I help you?

Customer:╴I'm writing my first email.
Tech Support:╴OK, and what seems to be the problem?
Customer:╴Well, I have the╴letter 'a' in the address, but how do I get the little circle around it.

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