- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 9, 2007

Area seniors are discovering that the Internet can be a useful tool, and at least one local agency is helping them get connected.

Each week the Jewish Council for the Aging offers a Senior Tech computer instruction program at six locations in the Washington area.

The course teaches computer tips to retirees so they can shop online, look up health information and e-mail their children and grandchildren.

“It’s just great. This is my first lesson and I’m learning so much about e-mail,” said Bernice Bloom, a 71-year-old retiree from Silver Spring.

“My 12-year-old grandson got me started, but there are some skills I still need to learn,” said Mrs. Bloom.

Depending on the length and level of the course, seniors can pay $5 to $80 for personal computer classes that teach them the skills they want to acquire.

“The number [of students] has been picking up for a while,” said Teresa Simmons, a program specialist at the Jewish Council for the Aging.

“It’s a good program for seniors who are trying to learn computers,” said Ms. Simmons. “I’ve been trying to get my mother online for years.”

Since the program’s inception in 1991, each course has been taught by senior volunteers who have backgrounds in computer technology.

“It’s different now than it used to be,” said Lois Granick, a Senior Tech volunteer who teaches classes at a county-owned office building on Edgemoor Lane near the Bethesda Metrorail station.

“Some seniors were fearful of technology, but nowadays they use computers a lot,” said Mrs. Granick. “My job is to explain the lingo and fill in some of the knowledge gaps.”

Mrs. Granick is a retired programmer who worked at PsychInfo, the online database of the American Psychological Association in the District.

Some of Mrs. Granick’s students are taking her computer basics course to become more effective workers.

“I came here because I wanted to upgrade my skills,” said Ed Feroli, a 73-year-old doctor from Bethesda.

“My younger assistants all instinctively know how to use a computer and I realized that I need to be more computer savvy,” said Dr. Feroli.

Other students come to learn online shopping tips and use EBay to rid their attics of the clutter they have accumulated over their lifetimes.

“My goal is to learn how to shop online,” said Felix Blanco, 66. “Everyone in my family uses computers to shop and I’m the only one who doesn’t know how.”

Others come to Senior Tech classes just to hang out with other technology-conscious seniors.

“I like to sit in the back and help the students when they need it,” said Fran McCormick, an 82-year-old teaching assistant who has worked at the Senior Tech center for 10 years.

“Plus I play solitaire a lot,” said Mrs. McCormick. “Who wants to shuffle cards when you’ve got a computer to do it?”

Mrs. McCormick said that she is always happy to help seniors learn how to use a computer for the first time. She and her fellow volunteers run a free computer-practice session on Thursdays.

Mrs. McCormick’s advice to hesitant first-timers: “Give the Internet a shot, you can’t break it.”

For more information about Senior Tech, call the Jewish Council for Aging at 301/881-8782 or visit www.jcagw.org.

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