Broward Seniors Get Tech Savvy With Digital Literacy Course

Sep 7, 2018

Aurora Oliphant uses the internet to look up Bible scriptures on YouTube for her church meetings and comedy videos like Abbott and Costello.

Oliphant, 70, is a recent graduate of the Senior Planet program, a 10-week course in Broward County through the South Florida Institute of Aging that teaches people 60 years and older the basics of using the web. The group is bridging the digital divide for seniors by teaching them to use computers and mobile devices.

Students of the program learn to use tools like Google Maps to find a friend’s house and Facebook to connect with family members, as well as how to order prescriptions online and set up an email account.

On Sundial, Oliphant discussed the course. She was joined by Senior Administrator of Senior Planet, Becky Smither, and the President of the South Florida Institute on Aging, Peter Kaldes.

For more information about the program click here. 

WLRN: What's in the curriculum? What are you teaching them?

Smither: Internet computer basics ... it's 10 chapters that start with understanding what is software, what is hardware and what is an operating system. Then it's learning smart, effective keywords to look up things online, safety practices online and set up an e-mail.

Aurora, I have parents and relatives who either don't care or are intimidated or think they don't need the skills, but do you think it's a generational thing?

Oliphant: Yes, to an extent. The older you are a lot of times, you hate changes and you're afraid to attempt certain things.

Aurora Oliphant, 70, holds a graduation certificate from her class "Chromebook Basics."
Credit Senior Planet / Courtesy

What's the one thing that you learned in the Senior Planet class that has been most significant for you?

I learned how to send my e-mail, go into e-mail, compose an e-mail. There was so much I learned.

I heard that you love to go on YouTube.

I love it.

What do you do on YouTube?

Pull up music and pop up different movies. When I was in class, I looked up and saw somebody like Abbott and Costello. They popped up and I wanted to find out more about them. 

Peter, why did you start this program in the first place? Did you see a great demand for these set of skill sets among the aging population?

Kaldes: It started with the demand of our existing program volunteers who would often call us to ask for help to getting them to a doctor's appointment using 'this Uber thing' or if we can help them find housing online. So we started paying attention to the needs of the people we were serving already and realize we're all living in a digital world and it's just vitally important that seniors remain connected and empowered to handle these affairs of theirs.

Aurora, I heard that this program has really been useful for your Bible group.

Oliphant: I took it with me to church because ... I sit in the class with my Google Chrome computer and was able to log on and pull up a lot of information that I needed.

If you run into other folks who are scared or intimidated, what do you tell them?

I was afraid. I did use a regular computer because I like to play games, but when it came down to a lot of other things I was afraid because I didn't know what a lot of little icons were. When I did get into something and I didn't understand and I couldn't get out of it, I would cut the computer off and I wouldn't venture in that area anymore. But since I've taken this class, I've gotten brave.

Aurora (second row on the left) with her "Chromebook Basics" graduating class on Aug. 29 at the Citrix Workspace in Ft. Lauderdale.
Credit Senior Planet / Courtesy