Our perceptions of computers used to stem from old “Star Trek” episodes. We’d see William Shatner talking into a speaker and all of a sudden a robotic yet feminine voice would reply “Does Not Compute “ or something like that.

Today we realize that computers are far more complex. Yet, at the same time, they’re more user friendly than they were during the PC boom of the early ’80s. But for those who have retired from the workforce and do not have routine access to them, the current wave of computerized technology can seem somewhat staggering. Thanks to programs provided by the Life Long Learning Center, east Dallas seniors are within a bus ride from learning the basics of computers and how to use them. Transportation is provided from Vickery Towers to Treemont Retirement Center in North Dallas.

 “Most of the students are beginners with computers, “ says Center representative Jean Paul Paretz. “Sometimes they have computers that are given to them by their children or are thinking about buying one and don’t know anything about it. They’re also usually very intimidated because they hear so much talk about things they have not used, like the internet. What we do is set up a place where they can be very comfortable and learn the basics.”

Among the things students can learn are how to use a mouse and keyboard effectively as well as utilize popular programs such as Windows. According to Paretz, one of the most popular methods of familiarizing students with the computer (particularly the mouse) is through programmed Solitaire games.

 “Even if some people are not technophobic, they’re overwhelmed, “ he says. “Everyone talks about computers and they feel as if they’re left behind. Then, they also want to learn how to use email to communicate with their friends and families. Not only that, but just to keep up with the times. In the end, it’s harder to use than a toaster, but easier to use than some VCRs. “

More seniors seems to be expressing an interest in computers these days and, as Paretz observed, one likely reason is increased usage of the Internet in our society. Lately it seems that not having an email address is just a couple of steps removed from not having a telephone. And seniors obviously do not intend to be left behind. According to a 1998 Neilsen survey, 7.5 million of the 50 million Americans online are over the age of 50.

Access to the Internet is often of particular importance to senior citizens. Email can be a fun, cost-effective alternative to large long-distance bills for grandmoms and granddads on a fixed income. Shopping and banking online is a blessing to those who may have lost some physical mobility, or who may no longer drive. Medical information from credible sources also is available on the information highway — no small thing in the world of HMOs and Medicare where doctors and nurses have less and less time to spend educating their elderly patients. 

The programs is free; at press time, there was no set schedule for April and May. For current registration details and information on bus rides from Vickery Towers call (214) 351-2148.


“It’s harder to use than a toaster, but easier than some VCRs.”

Jean Paul Paretz