All over Wood County, folks of “a certain age” seem to be having the same thought at once.
|Kurt Jump takes a photograph using an iPad during a class at Otterbein Portage Valley. (Photo: J.D. Pooley/Sentinel-Tribune)
Technology, especially internet-based, is moving like a runaway train, and we're liable to left behind permanently if we don't do something fast.
Such disparate groups as "regulars" at the Wood County Senior Center, public library card-holders in Perrysburg and Bowling Green, the University Women of Bowling Green State University organization, and the residents of Otterbein Portage Valley Senior Lifestyle Community at Pemberville, all chose 2013-2014 as the year to get with the program.
Mary Simpson, 98, could be considered the local poster child of this groundswell movement to master all things Twitter, Facebook, iPad and Kindle.
She never misses the first-Tuesday-of-the-month iPad classes at Portage Valley, where she has an independent apartment.
"She's very tech-savvy," OPV's Robin Small said of Simpson. "She emails, she reads her library books on her iPad, she does her bank work on it."
Simpson, a former Wisconsin resident who moved here to be near a son in Northwood and a granddaughter in Stony Ridge, especially appreciates having learned how to use Facebook.
"It lets me see all the photos of my family."
Simpson says she doesn't post too often herself, but she likes to check out what everyone else is up to.
"I'm a taker, not a giver," she teased.
Many class members are extremely loyal, like husband-and-wife team Levna and John Horrigan. "They come every month," said Small.
Others have taken a particular skill they've learned in class and run with it.
|Kay Longley (left) shows her graduation certificate to BGSU student Chani Fordyce during graduation day for area seniors that took tech classes taught by BGSU students.
Student Dale Holland, for example, has won an award for his iPad photography.
"He loves to take pictures of old barns in the Pemberville area," Small explained.
As instructor for the retirement community's tech program, Small started out offering beginner classes, but soon had to expand as participation number skyrocketed.
"It started out we had six, seven people. All of a sudden by October it blew up to 20 (or) 30.
The onslaught of Christmas smartphone and mini-tablet gifts brought still more eager, silver-haired students.
"We kind of start over every time, and we take it slow," Small said.
"At 2 p.m., we have the people who feel they're beginners. They don't even know how to close out an app. They don't understand all the different buttons, functions and features on their iPad or Kindle or whatever tablet.
"Then for the second hour, (starting) at 3 p.m., we talk about a specific topic each month" for those ready to delve deeper.
OPV's May 6 class, for example, will be devoted to "the best news and weather apps," Small said.
This organization is known for its special-interest sub-groups on such topics as gardening, antiques, literature and travel.
But last September, Denise Robins of Bowling Green and a few fellow members spearheaded the effort to start a technology group.
Would-be "Tech-ers" turned out by the dozens for the introductory session at the Bowling Green Country Club, suggesting ideas for programs for this first year. Pinterest, digital photography, and how to better use the county library's website all got multiple votes.
One evening two weeks ago, Doug Kolpien, who by day is a technology specialist at Way Public Library at Perrysburg, led a group of about 14 University Women, ranging in age from 50 to 80, in the intricacies of YouTube, Instagram and Twitter.
"YouTube is a great place to find ways to waste time," Kolpien said with a mischievous smile.
Robins, a docent at the Toledo Museum of Art, politely disagreed, pointing out that the museum posts YouTube videos of special tours and recent speakers.
Member Jo Ascunce, staying just one quick step behind the instructor, punched up a popular video of a giggling baby, practicing each concept on her smartphone before she could forget what he'd said.
By this time, most of the women in the group are getting fairly tech-savvy, so Kolpien can be quite detailed in his advice.
"If you're using Wi-Fi, go hog wild. But if you're out in the street watching, a YouTube video is going to suck up a lot of data in your smartphone or tablet," he warned the women.
Kolpien argued in favor of Twitter as a social media choice.
"Twitter doesn't really invade your privacy the way Facebook does. It doesn't want to know what year you graduated from high school."
Wood County Senior Center
April 16 was "graduation day" at the county senior center in Bowling Green.
For the previous six weeks, students from Bowling Green State University had been showing more than 60 older adults how to use various kinds of technology. During a one-hour ceremony, these seniors were formally welcomed as techno-competent citizens of the world.
According to the university, they were part on an ongoing project officially known as the Intergenerational Communication Intervention (ICI), which was developed by Dr. Kate Magsamen-Conrad, an assistant professor of communication, in partnership with leaders of the Wood County Committee on Aging.
ICI is currently in its third semester at the downtown BG senior center, according to BGSU communications specialist Jen Sobolewski.
"Enrollment has more than doubled as word has spread about the program," echoing the scene over at Otterbein Portage Valley this year.
Staff from the senior center, the university students and their instructors are pleased about a side effect from ICI beyond the undoubted increased technical wisdom for the 50-plus crowd.
In could be summed up as bonding through technology.
Follow-up survey results from the classes "have indicated statistically significant improvement in trust and communication" awareness of older adults toward younger adults, but also "statistically significant improvement in the attitudes of younger adults about diversity and disabilities," Sobolewski said.
Where to get help:
- Otterbein Portage Valley offers iPad classes the first Tuesday of each month.
- Way Public Library, Perrysburg, is mid-way through spring series of weekly computer classes.
- The Wood County Senior Center offers a six-week series of classes each spring and fall semester.
- The Wood County District Public Library offers regular one-on-one help.