As computers and mobile devices continue to evolve, it’s even more challenging for older adults to take advantage of what technology has to offer. With support from AT&T, OASIS, a national nonprofit devoted to successful aging, is updating training equipment and stepping up efforts to help people over 50 reap the benefits of technology.
“Older adults are looking for help with smart phones, tablets and changes in software,” said Amy VanDeVelde, manager of the OASIS Connections training program. “Some are coming in with new or “hand me up” devices given to them by their children or grandchildren. Some just want to try out a tablet to see what it’s all about. We’re updating equipment and expanding classes on getting started with mobile devices, Windows 8 and apps to help people over 50 stay healthy and connected.”
“It is more valuable than ever for older adults to join the digital world,” said Marcia Kerz, president of the OASIS Institute. “Family and friends are communicating by text messaging, email, social media and video calling, so learning to use these tools keeps you in closer touch. Being online also opens up more opportunities to find work or volunteer positions in your community. This all contributes to reduced isolation and improved health and well-being.”
AT&T has partnered with OASIS to increase technology training, providing more than $4 million since 2002 to support equipment investments, curriculum development and outreach efforts. Staff members from AT&T stores volunteer to provide one-on-one coaching for people looking for help with their mobile devices. Response has been enthusiastic, as a new video shows.
“Supporting underserved populations with technology training programs, like OASIS Connections, strengthens communities by helping folks keep in touch with one another,” said Nicole Anderson, Executive Director of Philanthropy at AT&T. “Technology connects people across generations and across the miles, which is why it’s such a powerful tool – especially for older adults.”
“Classroom training is so important for beginners who are overwhelmed and unsure where to start,” adds VanDeVelde. “While there are many online e-learning programs to teach technology skills, people with limited experience don’t have the basic skills to use them. Learning in a group with your peers is a social experience that helps people gain the confidence to try new options. Most of the volunteers who teach our classes are over 50 and readily empathize with people who are intimidated by technology.”
Marcia Freeman, who participated in AARP Foundation’s Senior Community Service Employment program, said “I felt that the training was very effective because there was a sense of support from the instructor and my classmates. The handbooks provided something to guide us when the instructor was not available and helped us do homework ourselves.”
Freeman was offered a job, after completing the training program. “I still occasionally refer back to my books,” Freeman said.
OASIS trains instructors in an evidence-based teaching approach emphasizing patience and plenty of hands-on practice activities that relate to the students’ interests. More than 30 course books provide step-by-step instructions and illustrations showing how to swipe to enlarge text on a touch screen or fill out an online job application.
OASIS partners with libraries and community-based organizations to offer the classes in 30 communities. “Our model is easy for libraries to adopt, helping them to engage volunteer instructors and meet the demands of library customers,” said VanDeVelde.
“Connections has allowed our library to provide patrons with very low-cost options for technology training,” said Jennifer Doyon, of The Brookfield Library in Brookfield, Connecticut. “Those who attend classes are thrilled to learn new skills or improve upon the ones they already have. Patrons find the Connections course materials very thorough and logical, and many have told me that they serve as an excellent reference even after the courses have ended.”
“As an instructor, I have found that the materials help me teach the subjects in an easy-to-understand manner,” said Doyon. Since I do not have to spend a great deal of time repeating instructions, I am able to provide more one-on-one help to students.”
“Connections has truly been a wonderful addition to our adult programs, and we look forward to holding more classes for our patrons in the coming year,” said Doyon.
About OASIS The OASIS Institute is a national nonprofit organization that promotes successful aging through lifelong learning, health programs and volunteer engagement. The OASIS vision is to see that adults age 50-plus across the country have opportunities to pursue vibrant, healthy, productive and meaningful lives. Founded in 1982, OASIS has a national membership of more than 360,000 adults and serves 59,000 people annually through partnerships in 43 cities. The OASIS Institute in St. Louis is the national headquarters. For more information, visit oasisnet.org.
About Philanthropy at AT&T AT&T Inc. is committed to advancing education, strengthening communities and improving lives. Through its community initiatives, AT&T has a long history of investing in projects that create learning opportunities; promote academic and economic achievement; or address community needs. In 2013, more than $130 million was contributed or directed through corporate-, employee-, social investment- and AT&T Foundation-giving programs.