Dubuque County Offers Computer Literacy Classes to Older Adults

Mid Life and BeyondAMES, Iowa — Dubuque County Extension is partnering with Loras College and Ann Mauss, associate professor of computing and technology at Loras, to provide computer literacy training to older citizens in the county as a part of the Mid-Life and Beyond Program through Iowa State University Extension and Outreach.

Mid-Life and Beyond is an integrated educational program designed to enhance quality of life for Iowans age 45 and older. The growing number of adults reaching the traditional retirement age of 65 presents new challenges and opportunities for Iowa communities, as the number of Iowans over retirement age is increasing daily as baby boomers age.

Through the Mid-Life and Beyond program, local citizens identified computer literacy as a need that was not being met for older residents of Dubuque County. Mid-Life and Beyond uses “study circles,” diverse groups of eight to 12 people from the community, to talk together and find ways to make their community a place where people want to live as they grow older. During the past two years, Dubuque County has had two series of study circles called “action forums” that focus on the needs of the aging community.

Susan Taylor, a family life and finance specialist with ISU Extension and Outreach, explained that the need for intergenerational experiences related to technology was originally brought up at the first action forum offered in Dubuque County in 2012, and again at the second forum in 2013. The main goal of the computer literacy project is to offer older adults throughout Dubuque County opportunities to improve computer literacy skills so they can fully participate in this digital age.

A three-day series of computer training workshops led by Loras students under the supervision of Mauss took place in the spring. The sessions centered around teaching the senior participants basic computer skills from turning on a computer and iPad, copying and pasting, and loading pictures from a camera to a laptop — to how to set up a Facebook account and how to purchase books using a tablet. The class was open to 15 participants.

Taylor said that from the evaluation they learned that the senior participants preferred one on one attention, rather than two seniors to one student.
To have enough students prepared to teach the senior participants, Loras College plans to offer a three-week course in January 2015, in which the students will help develop the tutorials to work with the seniors. They also will receive sensitivity training to learn how to work with seniors who may have difficulty hearing or seeing, arthritis, or anything else that could potentially slow down the reaction period for some seniors.
Jennifer Margrett, an ISU associate professor and co-chair of Mid-Life and Beyond, has said the hope is to replicate the computer workshop for seniors statewide. After the course in January is complete, the tutorials and training will be offered to students in high school, community college, college and university computer classes to begin to meet the computer literacy needs of older Iowans across the state.
Taylor said another class likely will be available for senior adults sometime around next spring, after the tutorials have been developed and training has been provided. Computer literacy classes are just one example of the many projects being created by Mid-Life and Beyond participants throughout Iowa as they work together to make a difference in their communities.