Seniors cruise the cyber highway; tech class helps older folks connect safely online | Health

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MANCHESTER — For years, the adult children of Jean Morris had promised that one day they would teach their mother how to use her iPhone and tablet to better connect with others. With their own busy lives, however, that day never came.

Not wanting to wait any longer, Morris, who lives in Manchester, signed up for a technology course last fall which was being held at the Manchester Community Library.

The Classroom, designed and hosted by NeverTechLate – a company whose mission is “to improve the social and cognitive engagement of older adults to help counter the potentially devastating impact of isolation on health”, according to its founder and CEO, Florence J. Mauchant – did not disappoint.

In just eight sessions, Morris was a computer whiz. Well, maybe not at the level of a Steve Jobs or a Mark Zuckerberg, but she was still able to tap into everything the tech world had to offer – video calls, emails, Google searches – and do it safely, learning the red flags of cybercrime that many people fall victim to.

“I wanted to be aware of the world,” Morris said.

Morris was back at Manchester Library on Tuesday for another session of NeverTechLate. Except this time, she wasn’t a student. She was there to help Mauchant and two teachers from NeverTechLate who “zoomed in” for the class.

“It’s great to be back to help, and it refreshes my brain,” Morris said of the new class of future senior technicians who meet twice a week until the program ends on the 27th. april.

Mauchant launched NeverTech Late four years ago to enrich the lives of seniors facing social isolation and to counter the potentially devastating impact of isolation on health. Little did she realize then how prophetic her vision of such an undertaking would be.

When the pandemic imposed a global stay-in-place mandate in 2020, connecting with others online became a lifeline for people of all ages, but especially the elderly. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), adults 50 and older suffer more from depression and health problems when isolated. In one study, the CDC found that loneliness was associated with a 29% increased risk of heart disease and a 32% increased risk of stroke.

Becoming tech-savvy, however, is about more than fighting isolation. It’s about keeping up with the number of things that are being done now these days.

“It’s important for the older population to learn how to use their tablets for making doctor’s appointments and shopping,” Mauchant said.

People gathered in class on Tuesday admitted their confidence was low when it came to using their devices. When asked to rate it on a scale of one to five, many answered “1”. A female student said she mainly uses her tablet to play a game of solitaire. Mauchant assured him that this would no longer be the case at the end of the course.

“Our core curriculum focuses on how to use a tablet, Zoom and how to safely browse the internet to promote social connection and lifelong learning,” she said.

When asked what was the toughest challenge NeverTechLate students had to overcome, Mauchant’s answer had nothing to do with technology.

“The most difficult thing for people is to come to class. As we know, as we get older it becomes harder and harder to learn something new,” Mauchant said, adding, however, that she sees students well into their 90s.

Seniors aren’t the only group that needs technology training. Mauchant says his company plans to help people in the workplace learn essential skills like using Excel spreadsheets.


Seniors cruise the cyber highway; tech class helps older folks connect safely online | Health

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