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Wednesday, Aug. 31, 2016

Senior citizens now more savvy online

Monday, March 5, 2007

Fred Lasater uses one of the computers at the Sikeston Public Library.
SIKESTON -- Robert Hays uses his personal computer every day to check his e-mail or look into a steel guitar forum.

But the 75-year-old Sikeston man said he mainly uses the Internet for correspondence with family and friends.

"I don't know a whole lot about computers, but I know how to use it for what I need," Hays said.

A Harris Poll released last year shows there are now 172 million American adults online and almost 14 million of those are senior citizens age 65 and older. Seniors online are 8 percent of the total, which has increased by 5 percent since last year.

Ruth Dockins, public information officer for Southeast Missouri Area Agency on Aging, said she doesn't know how many local senior citizens are using the Internet, but she thinks senior citizens are interested in using the computer and Internet.

"I would say a big majority of them are not using the Internet," Dockins said. "In the rural areas, it's hard to get high speed Internet, and dial-up is enough to drive anyone insane."

And Dockins said she does recommend senior citizens go online. While using e-mail is probably the biggest reason senior citizens go online, Dockins said there are other benefits, too.

"Of course you don't have to have a telephone book anymore," Dockins said referring to the information available online. "They can get recipes, and all kinds of information. Anything that you want to know anything about, you can find something about it on there."

Dockins noted many of today's younger senior citizens already know how to use the computer.

For those who want to learn more about computer use, often times computer courses are offered through local technical schools, libraries, churches, senior centers or universities.

Richard McGill, supervisor for adult and community education at Sikeston Career and Technology Center, said computer classes have been offered at the center for years, and in the past, they've been very successful.

SCTC even offers a basic computer class designed for those 55 years and older. The classes, divided into four two-hour sessions, teach students about e-mail, the Internet and whatever the students' needs are, McGill said.

However, the enrollment for the senior citizen class has slowly become less and less over the past couple years, McGill said.

"The interest just isn't there right now. I don't know if the ones who wanted the class have taken it already," McGill said.

McGill said there's a trend in community education right now where people just aren't taking classes.

"Maybe it's because some are living on a fixed income, and the economy is tight. They may feel they don't have the disposable money to spend on a class or a computer," McGill reasoned.

A couple years ago, SCTC couldn't offer the class enough. In one semester, the center had three classes of 20 students, McGill pointed out.

"We're still getting a little bit of interest, but not enough to make a class for just senior citizens," McGill said, adding the Center needs six people enrolled to make a class.

Right now if there ar

e less than six senior citizens who enroll, they're placed in another class with students of all ages.

Sue Tangeman, director of Sikeston Public Library, said senior citizens frequent the library to use computers.

"Some of them have a little bit of knowledge and some have quite a bit of knowledge," Tangeman said.

Reasons for computer usage by senior citizens at the library are varied, Tangeman said.

"Most of the senior citizens who come in and use the computers are looking for medical information. Sometimes people want to file taxes, which of course they can't do here. A lot of them want to get directions to some place else or try to do a people finder. Or they want to get online for genealogy purposes," Tangeman said.

Last year the library offered a basic computer course for senior citizens -- something Tangeman said she hopes to do again. But at this time, a program hasn't been developed yet, she said.

McGill also said anyone interested in taking a computer basics course should contact SCTC for more information.

"Once you get started, it's relatively easy to use," Hays said about using the Internet. "... There's something on the computer for everybody."

Hays said the Internet can be a good companion -- something he tries to convince several friends who don't have computers or know how to go online.

"I tell them the world is passing them by," Hays said. "They're missing out."