HANDS-ON: This term's U3A Computer Skills Advanced Group working with tutor Trudy Graham.
HANDS-ON: This term's U3A Computer Skills Advanced Group working with tutor Trudy Graham.

U3A keeping older people in touch with their world

KEEPING up with news from kids, grandkids and friends, sharing their own travels and doing online banking and shopping are some of the primary reasons older people are embracing technology.

That's according to U3A tutor Trudy Graham, who teaches two of the organisation's many computer-related courses, which include classes on laptops, iPads, iPhones and androids.

Tutor co-ordinator David Weston said when the group had started its iPad classes about three years ago, they had expected a moderate response of perhaps 20-30 people per week. Instead, they have about 200 people per week eager to learn the new technology.

These days, he said, most people had moved away from the traditional desktop computers, and U3A had phased out its in-class computers, with participants encouraged instead to bring their own laptops.

"It means people learn on their own computers," David said. "They don't have to then adapt what they've learnt in class to the technology they have at home."

And, he said, you are simply never too old to learn, with people in their 90s taking part in computer-related classes, including some aged in their 80s learning Excel spreadsheets, and others using technology to get involved in the financial markets.

"It's just that thirst for knowledge," David said.

The key, Trudy said, was to give participants the confidence to use technology and try different things - they won't break anything. But that can only be achieved by hands-on learning.

U3A offers an Out of the Box class for people new to iPads, which has been hugely successful.

"A lot of people come to the course who have been given a device by family members as a present or they've been handed down an older model and they have no idea where to start," Trudy said.

The difficulty, Trudy and David agreed, was that the younger generation, brought up in a fast-moving digital age, took certain learning for granted. They become frustrated when mum, dad or grandparents can't immediately grasp concepts. They take the device out of their hands and do the task for them rather than taking the time to explain it step by step in language they understand.

"I think a lot of young people think technology is beyond us, and it's definitely not," said Trudy, herself 72, who remembers when the first computer landed on her desk back in the 1970s.

"We want to keep learning and keep up with what's happening in the world."

The portability of iPhones, iPads and laptops, she said, particularly appealed to retirees who were travelling more. Classes could teach them about filing photos and keeping in touch through email, Skype, Facebook and more.

"People are embracing technology as a way to share what they are seeing and doing and share their lives with families who are increasingly scattered," Trudy said.

To find out more about U3A, go www.u3atoowoomba.com. Yearly membership costs $50, with classes approximately $20 per term.

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