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Digitally Connecting your Golden Years in the Emerald City

By Elke Hautala

Seattle is a vibrant city with a booming population. From it’s 1890’s gold rush past to the noveau riches of the tech industry, Seattle has become synonymous with progress and increased demographics. But what if you are watching the wheels of progress from the sidelines?

Nearly 18% (of residents in King County) are age 60 and older.”

Not just that, but by 2040 the number of residents in this category is expected to increase to nearly 25%.

By 2040, if I’m lucky, that category will include me. Although, people such as my generation and myself have moved into the digital world and often times embraced it – there are many who have stayed, either by choice or financial circumstances, with older or outdated technology.

Part time local resident Bonita Pasciak (full disclosure she’s also my mother) has been a certified beekeeper, ballet teacher, home health nurse, Air Force officer and bricklayer in her life. She can identify almost any plants or wildlife and fix anything physical that breaks. She’s an incredibly multifaceted expert except when it comes to computer-based tech.

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All photos by author.

When I asked her about her experiences with technology she said, “It’s frustrating because I need to use it but don’t have a way to learn it easily.”

She also talked about the divide in how information is disseminated nowadays. “I’m from a generation where you got printed directions for everything. Now you’re supposed to have prior knowledge.”

Fortunately, Seattle has provided many great options for education to those feeling left out of the tech boom.

Comcast offers its Internet Essentials program especially for low-income seniors age 62 and older. This means they get not only cheap home Internet and Wi-Fi but they also have access to free computer and/or Internet training classes.

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They make it easy to get connected, increase your knowledge and get off the sidelines. Seattle is one of the specific cities involved in this pilot program, along with nine other metro areas, which hopefully will be increased to even more locations in the not-too distant future.

Back to school isn’t just for kids. Did you know that seniors in Washington State could take college level classes for free? Whether you hit the books your first go round or hit all the right parties, you can continue your education in your golden years. This includes learning about computer technology.

You can satisfy your Academic curiosity on a wide variety of subjects for free or a nominal fee if you’re 60 years or older. There are a few specifics such as not registering for more than two quarter or semester courses and if you’re looking to show off your test taking skills, you’ll have to be content with taking your own quizzes at home.

 

If you would rather have straightforward computer classes without a side of Aristotle, look no further than your local library. I cannot sing the praises of our Seattle Public library system enough.

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Whether it’s story time for the little ones, homework help for teens, books for adults or classes for seniors – there really is something for everyone. They have even had Shakespeare’s First Folio visit the Central Library in downtown. The penultimate event for a self-avowed book nerd such as myself!

Their classes really run the gamut of technological skills too. Everything from the basics or Microsoft Word to creativity in the digital world such as learning to use Adobe Photoshop, WordPress or Etsy is a possibility depending on space and availability. Did I mention they are all free? Even my mother, the consummate thrift store professional, could learn how to sell her handmade crafts online this way.

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Speaking of second hand shopping, I learned from the best and have become quite the connoisseur of the best bargain hunting locales in the Emerald City. You may not have noticed on your hunt for Doc Martins, portable keyboards or velvet clown paintings but Seattle Goodwill actually does a lot of good for the community.

They have a job training and education program that has, among many other options, computer classes for those who may not have any other resources to take them. In fact, “Seattle Goodwill was founded in 1923 by a group of local business people who recognized a need for training and employment for those without job skills.”

They provide a comprehensive approach to supporting individuals so they can take charge of and make positive changes in their lives.

Finally, there was a now defunct governmental initiative that I truly hope has the budget and option to come back. It was called “Seniors Training Seniors”. Billed as “a low stress way for older adults to learn new computer skills.” What better way to learn than with a group of your peers?

Who knows what technology the future will bring? Even those of us in my generation who have bridged the analog to digital divide with gusto; there may be Nano tech in the next 20 years that mystifies us. I hope the library has a class for it. I’ll be the first to sign up.

Find out more about Comcast’s Internet Essentials program for seniors here.

Check out more information on Seattle Public Library’s classes here.

Explore beyond the second hand goods at Seattle Goodwill here.

Here is a blog that has compiled tuition waiver information for senior citizens at Washington State colleges.

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