Seniors Surf Past Computer-Phobia

CAFCA | April 28, 2013 |

Cynthia Lyde turned on her HP NX 6110. She checked her email.It was a miracle! Or at least it was a feat Lyde hadn’t imagined being able to carry out—until she and a dozen other older folks overcame computer-phobia by “surfing” for six weeks.  Lyde spent the time not with a surfboard, but with a keyboard, course. On Thursday she finished a computer literacy course with other over-55 New Haveners Whalley Avenue offices of the Community Action Agency of New Haven (CAA).

The course, which meets for two hours a day for two days over the six-week-period, is about socialization as much as computerization, said CAA computer network supervisor Angela Scipio, who led Thursday’s lesson. Lyde and Edna Adams, who hadn’t met before the class, have become human friends as they became more computer friendly. Now they email each other as well as chat in class, like school girls again.  They also have in common what brought them to the class: “I was tired of asking my kids and grand-kids [to teach me]. They don’t have patience,” Lyde said as she and Adams typed “www.walmart.com” into the address box.

They checked out Walmart printers and then comparison-shopped, at the tap of a finger, at Staples, with Scipio leading the way. Scipio said of her older students, “Some people are really afraid of the computer, if they touch something, it’ll be screwed up.” That certainly was the case with Adams. Until now, if she hit the wrong button, “I was afraid I’d tear it up. Now I’m calm.”  The first time she sent an email to her pal Cynthia and it all worked, she remembered, “I said ‘Oh!’ It was a big deal.”

CAA has arranged for the older learners to buy refurbished computers at modest prices. Lyde obtained an HP, a fully loaded laptop, for $125.The last session was devoted to a course summary as well as tips on shopping for a printer and ink cartridges—online, of course. Scipio said now that the students have computer skills, they can purchase a printer and help out printing brochures and flyers for their churches.

Abraham Gallishaw (at left in photo) and Douglas Hall were friends before they came to computer class. They’re closer friends now, thanks to email.Hall said he’s also keen on using his new skills to shop, and not just for a new printer and not only to help out at church. First on his list will be books, watches, and rings pertaining to the Masons, to which he belongs.

Gallishaw said his daughter didn’t have time either to teach him, so when he got a call from CAA about the course, “it was the best phone call I ever had. This is like going back to school.  The courses, both at the beginning and intermediate levels, are ongoing in the spring and summer. Those interested should contact Kathleen Crowley at CAA at: 203-387-7700, extension 250.