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LCD projection ideal choice for
technology outreach

Hinsdale's Community House computer training for seniors

It’s not unusual for first time computer users to feel inadequate and intimidated. The faster computer technology grows, the more some people see it as a tool for the young and vigorous. But they couldn’t be more wrong. There’s a growing movement among senior citizens to conquer the keyboard, and that’s exactly what’s happening at the senior center at Hinsdale’s Community House.

Two summers ago, the Community House became one of only a handful of Chicago area senior programs to open up a SeniorNet Learning Center. SeniorNet is a non-profit organization that teaches older adults how to use computers and the internet. The program grew out of a 1986 research project in San Francisco aimed at finding out how computer technology could enhance the lives of older adults. The results were overwhelming. Senior citizens were ready and willing to tackle computers. They just needed someone to show them how.

SeniorNet Learning CenterAt the Community House, classes meet once a week for two hours and up to ten students can take each class. The classroom has 11 computers, one for the instructor and one for each of the students. What has made the classes so much more workable is the Philips LCD projector the Community House bought from United Visual. “They chose the Philips,” says United’s Dave Woods, “primarily because it’s so easy to use. The remote and wireless mouse are quite intuitive and it has an extremely long lamp life, almost double other models.”

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When the projector is hooked up to the instructor’s computer, everything he’s doing on his computer is projected onto a large screen that all the students can see. They can then follow along by watching what he does. “Most people, especially in the senior citizen category, are afraid of new things,” says volunteer coach Jim Dutton. “You have to go more methodically. But this projector’s picture is beautifully clear and bright. It’s like looking at the picture right on the computer.” Dutton is one of two or three coaches who position themselves behind the students and help if someone gets lost or doesn’t understand the terminology. Using the Philips projector has made things a whole lot easier, especially for the true beginners. “It’s the only way to teach the class,” says Dutton. “I’d hate to have to teach without it.”

Three hundred seniors have taken advantage of the computer classes at the Community House since they started last July. Waiting lists are not unusual, but since each class is only two months long, students don’t have to wait forever. Classes run the gamut of experience. Pre-Beginner covers the true basics, like the mouse, keyboard and “where’s the on/off switch.” Introduction to Computers I and II and Word Processing are also popular and an internet class is being planned for this spring. Everyone is amazed at the program’s success, including Community House director Lyn Shean. “It’s a great thing to learn new things in later life and to be able to stay connected within a family.” Hinsdale’s Community house is a non-profit social service agency that serves the needs of all ages, not just senior citizens. But for the area’s older adults, SeniorNet has definitely opened up a whole new world.