Last week, CTN and Family Eldercare congratulated their first class of learners on completing the Connect@Home Program at Rebekah Baines Johnson (RBJ) Center. I had the good fortune of seeing their journey from start to finish, all the way from uneasy introductions to laughs we shared together at the end. Our team of learners had come a long way since the class began in mid-July. Their first class covered the very basics of tablet use, including navigating touch screens, smart device vocabulary, and the tablet’s accessibility features. They would go on to cover a diverse set of topics, including video conferencing with loved ones, online banking skills, and local transportation apps.
The event was marked by all four learners helping to call a Ride Austin rideshare to collect party supplies from a local supermarket. After another rideshare trip home, the RBJ learners each shared their thoughts on the experience as a whole. “I was afraid to start working with the tablet initially,” participant Stephen Maki explained, “but now I’ve got it and I’m already borrowing e-books from the public library straight to my tablet.” Stephen had never owned a tablet before, but now he keeps it close beside him at home and at work.
Others spoke to the friendly atmosphere and community aspect of the class. “I’m mostly thankful for the camaraderie,” learner James Gore shared with the group. “The small class helped us become friends.” Fellow RBJ class member Joyce Roessler told the gathering, “I’m still hesitant with some things, but I’ve got a good booklet now to review with. My goal is to keep learning new skills with my family. My grandson thinks I’m a ‘cool uma’!”
The Connect@Home program is designed to accommodate the needs of seniors facing chronic social isolation and little technological skill. CTN trainers and volunteers start at the very base level, familiarizing learners with their devices before branching out into more advanced skills. At the end of the course, learners have mastered skills that help them better connect to loved ones, seek out new social circles, and navigate the internet in a safe and responsible way. Six new classes, based on the lessons learned from this first pilot course, are set to begin next week and continue through January 2019. I am so proud of our cohort and can’t wait to see them around RBJ this fall, sharing their newfound skills with other residents in the months to come!