Noise complaints on the third floor of the James V. Brown Library usually occur before noon.
From "Blurred Lines" by Robin Thicke to "Happy" by Pharrell Williams, a group of students are downloading music to their iPads and setting their FaceTime ringtones. They also happen to be senior citizens. The local chapter of SeniorNet offers weekly computer classes for seniors, providing the tools and resources to navigate new technology. Each course meets weekly for two hours, with two hours of homework and a work-along manual with step-by-step instructions on the specific operating system.
Mike Takach, a retired senior, attends the weekly class on basic computer fundamentals offered through Susquehanna SeniorNet. After six weeks, he's making digital flyers on his own, altering font size and inserting picture into the document.
CRAIG S. McKIBBEN JR./Sun-Gazette Correspondent
The James V. Brown Library recently hosted the local chapter of SeniorNet, a national nonprofit organization that aims to enrich the lives of seniors through technology. Susquehanna SeniorNet offers weekly computer classes for those age 50 and older. Shown at left, volunteer instructor Jeannie Rombach, of Jersey Shore, right, helps participants learn basic computer literacy and word processing skills.
"I know my way around computers better, which is evident. I wanted to keep up with new technology," said Takach who decided to take the class for self-improvement.
The national nonprofit organization, SeniorNet, operates with the mission to "provide older adults education for and access to computer technologies to enhance their lives and enable them to share their knowledge and wisdom." The local chapter, Susquehanna SeniorNet, serves Lycoming County and the surrounding area.
Staffed by local volunteers, Susquehanna SeniorNet conducts six-week beginner classes for computing seniors-ages 50 and older. The class size is limited to 10 students, allowing for specialized attention from instructors and adequate resources.
According to the Pew Research Center's Internet and American Life Project, more than half of older adults (defined as those ages 65 or older) are Internet users. The recent study cited a number of hurdles for seniors adopting new technologies, including difficulty learning to use new technology. Only 18 percent of older adults indicated that they would feel comfortable learning to use a new technology device such as a smartphone or tablet on their own, while 77 percent said that they would need someone to help guide them through the process.
Fighting the odds with frustration and determination, retired engineer Rudy Wacek taught himself through trial and error but hopes to save others from similar challenges that often can be a deterrent. He now teaches the computer fundamentals class through Susquehanna SeniorNet, offering a hands-on approach to the basics of technology.
"I had experienced problems using my first computer and felt that I could benefit some older people by sharing my experiences and help them get to the point where they can enjoy the usefulness of a computer," Wacek said.
He turned to Susquehanna SeniorNet to share the hard-earned lessons of those first days on his own computer.
"A friend recommended that I contact SeniorNet and then I ran into them on Senior Day at the Lycoming Mall, spoke with them and became active with the group. I can't believe that was almost 10 years ago," Wacek, who is now a chairman of the local chapter, said.
Following the curriculum workbook, Wacek guides Takach along formatting fundamentals in Microsoft Word on a desktop computer provided by the library.
There is a palpable sense of accomplishment shared by the teacher and the student as they approach the task together, learning and modifying along with advances in technology.
One of the most popular courses for the Susquehanna SeniorNet is the Introduction to the iPad. The class meets for two hours every Wednesday, and tackles everything from e-books to finding recipes on Pinterest. Students bring an iPad and any questions, while the class follows a fluid curriculum.
Throughout the class, students share recent app discoveries, including the Gutenberg Literature app that provides free e-books as part of Project Gutenberg. The perimeters of accessible information expand exponentially with every touch of the screen as the class begins to navigate the online world.
According to the Pew Research Center, 71 percent of seniors who are familiar with the Internet will go online every day or nearly every day. Additionally, 79 percent of older adults who use the Internet agree that "people without internet access are at a real disadvantage because of all the information they might be missing."
For the most part, seniors who learn how to use computers will find it useful in their daily life, directly or indirectly.
"You can learn interesting things to do within the standard operating system and it can be helpful to occupy the grandchildren on a rainy weekend," Wacek said.
While the spring session already has begun summer classes will begin on May 7. The summer sessions include "Introduction to iPad"; "Transitioning to Windows 8"; and "Computer Solutions."
For more information about SeniorNet classes, visit www.susquehannaseniornet.org or call the James V. Brown library at 570-326-0536.