The Other Side of 50

Older Solano residents’ computer interest ranges

By From page OSF6 | January 09, 2014

FAIRFIELD — It’s not just digital natives who know their way around computers.

The generation that grew up with communications technology may be more comfortable with computers, but many older Americans make the machines a major part of their lives.

“Many seniors are computer savvy,” said Serena Enger, supervising librarian for the Fairfield branch, “but would like a little more assistance with particular aspects of computer use.”

The Fairfield branch of the Solano County Library offers that, as well as help with computer basics.

Five volunteers with computer experience spend an hour per session in one-on-one instruction at the library. After Christmas 2012, when electronic book readers like Kindles and Nooks were popular gifts, many people turned to the library for help with their new devices.

David Casuto, owner of Senior Surf Computer Education in San Francisco, said the language that surrounds new communications technology helps spur the apprehension some elderly have about computers. Words that used to mean something else have a new meaning in technology, he noted.

Moreover, said Casuto, people who have accomplished many things can still find computers confusing. His advice: Consider how kids approach learning new subjects.

“Kids are fearless,” he said. “Kids experiment.”

If they fall down, they wash away the dirt, get up and return to the task. That approach works with learning technology, Casuto said. “You’re not going to break the computer.”

He also suggests watching YouTube videos about how to use computers. If that requires more knowledge than a novice computer user possesses, the Fairfield library has DVDs available with instruction about using computers.

Casuto, 41, didn’t grow up with computers and they weren’t widely used when he was in college.

“I do remember what it’s like,” he said of confronting computers. “It does help me be a good teacher.”

Someone who knows nearly nothing about computers can get a basic knowledge within a month, he said.

Enger suggests learning computers a component at a time. Start with the basic instruction the library offers and follow with subjects such as email, she said.

The Fairfield library has 60 computers available for public use, as well as Google Chrome laptops to lend for use within the library. Fairfield may have more computers in one library than any site in the Bay Area other than San Francisco and Sacramento, Enger said.

For one-on-one computer instruction at the library, call 866-572-7587. The library also plans a special March 6 workshop on computer tablets such as the iPad.

The Apple technology provides a new way to access words – and Enger noted that the printing press itself was once a new invention.

“Even the book is a form of technology,” she said. “It revolutionized society.”

Living in the Bay Area, where the personal computer industry was born, doesn’t necessarily make computer learning easier. Casuto said so many people who know communications technology well and make it their career can be intimidating. The best antidote may be beginning to work with computers.

“Once they start,” he said of computer users, “they realize, ‘This is much easier than I expected it to be.’ ”

Fairfield resident Shawn Rojas, 60, who recently used a computer at the library, worked as a medical transcriber and got an early introduction to communications technology. She goes to libraries to access computers partly because that keeps the machines in perspective.

“So many people, once they have it,” she said of a computer, “they tend to overuse it.”

“Your life is this 3-by-5-inch screen,” she said.

Rojas spends about an hour a day in front of a computer and said more time than that isn’t necessary.

“The rest of it,” she said, “is just playing.”

The Fairfield resident said hers is a minority opinion.

“It’s a rare perspective,” she said.

Reach Ryan McCarthy at 427-6935 or [email protected]

Ryan McCarthy


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