Sunday, December 24, 2000

Seniors take to the Internet


Students find stimulation, e-mail online

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        FLORENCE — Lee Ramsey, 29, teaches computers to retirees. He thought they might be shy with questions.

        Ha. These students not only ask, they shout.

        “How did you do that?” “What's a search engine?” “Slow down!”

        It's loads of fun, the students say.

        They attend the Center for Learning Opportunities, which opened two years ago in the Boone County Senior Center on Woodspoint Road.

        The focus is computer instruction for people age 50 and older — those who didn't grow up with mouse clicks and home pages. The classes are small, informal and led by patient volunteers. Lessons range from turning on the computer to trading stocks on the Internet.

        “I had never even touched a computer until, I'm just guessing, five weeks ago,” says Delores Hopperton, 64.

[photo] Betty Fox, 72, of Florence (left) takes an Internet class at the Boone County Senior Center with instructor Mary DiSalvo (right).
(Patrick Reddy photo)
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        Now she practices at every opportunity.

        “I'm typing again, and I haven't done this in years. This is a beautiful place to learn.”

        The center is operated by Senior Services of Northern Kentucky, best known for running its Meals on Wheels program in 15 senior centers throughout the region. The agency wanted to serve not just fragile seniors but also those with plenty of vim left.

        The Boone County center, which has 10 computers, was opened with support from the county fiscal court, Procter & Gamble Co. and the Retirement Research Foundation, among others. Bored with retirement, some people try to go back to work and discover they need computer skills, says Mary Hunter Ellis, the agency's development director.

        For others, the Internet brings stimulation and entertainment, not to mention e-mail.

        “I want to keep up with my grandkids, get some information on the Internet that will get my mind working,” says Betty Fox of Florence.

        Her son said he will be replacing her “dinosaur” of a machine in January, she says, and she can't wait.

        The flurry of activity in Mrs. Fox's life comes after several years of mourning her husband, who died in 1996. She was becoming a couch potato, she says. It was time to get out.

        Now she can hardly stay away from the senior center. On Thursday, she and her friends watched a projection screen as Lisa Kamuf, the director, showed them how to watch movie trailers on the Internet.

        At Amazon.com, the group found a calendar for sale called “Classic Pin-Ups.”

        “I wonder if Betty Grable is in there,” said Rhea Krebs, 63.

        Not every computer student would know that name. Ms. Grable was a 1940s movie star.

        On the wall behind the stu dents hangs a banner. “You are smarter than your computer,” it says.

        Do the students agree?

        “No,” Ms. Krebs says. “But we're gaining.”

        The retirees have surprised their teachers in several ways. For one thing, they don't seem to get frustrated, says Mr. Ramsey, a bartender training to become a computer technician.

        Instead, they simply ask questions until glitches get resolved.

        “As a group, they're more interested than I anticipated,” Mr. Ramsey says. “I guess I thought they would be people who would just listen and follow the instructions.”

        Mrs. Fox laughs.

        “The older you get, the more questions you ask,” Mrs. Fox says.

        “When I was 30 or 35, I wouldn't dream of asking a question.”

        Ms. Krebs agrees. “Now I find if I don't ask, I'll never know,” she says.

        To volunteer or take classes at the center, call (859) 525-4940

       

       Karen Samples is Kentucky columnist for the Enquirer. She can be reached at (859) 578-5584 or ksamples@enquirer.com.
       



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