His daughter gave him the slim Nexus tablet a couple of years ago. Fred Kanter already was using a computer with ease - but somehow, that knowledge didn't translate to the handheld device. "Every once in a while, she'd ask me about it," he said - and that was a little awkward. "I'd try to play with it, but I never succeeded."
All that changed in February when Fred, 90, met 18-year-old Nathan Dahlen, co-founder of the CJFS Cyber-Seniors program. Five weeks into the eight-week program, Fred was using his tablet to track his investments, exchange emails, keep up with the news, play solitaire and Google whatever he pleased.
The class came about through pure serendipity:
· CJFS supporters Lyons Heyman and Ricki Koslin wanted to find a way to bring the transformative power of the Internet to more older adults in Birmingham.
· CJFS Clinical Social Worker Catherine Findley had the same idea; she’d seen a documentary about a program called Cyber-Seniors based in two Toronto, Canada retirement homes, and she wanted to do something similar through CJFS.
· And Nathan needed to find a community service project for himself and other home-schooled members of the Birmingham-based Evangel Christian School Honor Society. With funding from Lyons and Ricki, in space provided by the Friedman Center for Jewish Life, the program launched Feb. 8 with 20 seniors participating – and a healthy waiting list.
“Older adults have a tremendous desire to stay connected with friends and family, and they realize that Facebook, email and text messaging are great ways to do that. Many of them also want to use mobile devices to shop online, use GPS and look things up quickly – the same conveniences that have made these devices so popular with younger people,” Catherine said. “This kind of learning requires patience and practice, and family members may not always be the most effective teachers. By connecting our seniors with these service-minded youngsters, we’ve found a fun and wonderfully effective way to bridge the technology gap.” Nathan and Catherine adapted the curriculum from the Canadian program, including a variety of apps and functions. “My children are going to be so exited I’ve got Uber because they are so concerned about my husband and me driving at night” Letty Marcus said after a session with 15-year-old Methany Farley. “And I’ve got YouTube, so I can listen to Frank Sinatra!”