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Is back to school just for kids? Apparently not.
The Blue Hair Technology Group in Johns Creek, Georgia (northeast of Atlanta), is educating senior citizens to use new technologies like tablet computers and Facebook so they can keep in touch.
Blue Hair Technology Group is featured on TechSoup’s new Local Impact Map. The nonprofit provides laptops, tablet computers, training, and other technology resources to elderly people.
They take donations of gently used IT equipment and distribute them to seniors who want to keep connected with family and friends. They also use TechSoup’s donation program to obtain the software they need to create outreach and curriculum materials.
Blue Hair Technology Group is a strong advocate for tablet computers like iPads, Kindles, and other e-readers because touch screens are a much more intuitive interface for computer beginners, whether they’re two or 92.
Touch screens are also much easier to use if people have different types of disabilities, cognitive or physical. Last but not least, touch screen devices are so light (one to one and a half pounds) that they are very manageable for seniors to carry with them.
Tablets are easily the fastest-growing category of portable computers. Tablet sales are expected to overtake those of all other personal computers by 2014, so they are the coming thing.
The organization began as a project of Jane Ratliff, inspired by her own 86-year-old mother’s quick and easy grasp of using an iPad purchased by Ratliff and her brother.
"My mother had never turned on a computer in her life," Ratliff recalls. But her mother had seen the benefits of computerized communication by watching her husband.
"I realized that she would need lessons to be successful and enjoy her gift, so I declared that my birthday gift to her." And three months of weekly lessons later, Ratliff’s mom was proficient on her iPad.
The program now conducts classes in multiple senior centers in central Georgia, replicating that success.
One of the things I like best about Blue Hair Technology Group’s website is their senior technology news blog. It features senior-friendly technology that I had never heard about like the HP Presto Printing Mailbox, which receives email without a computer.
This printer allows approved people to send emails (with photos) and it will print automatically. The owner of the device doesn’t need a computer at all.
Another recent post was about "nana technology," which involves emerging technologies such as robotic nurses and online medicine cabinets.
The coolest thing for me, however, was a virtual tour of dementia. This blog is an astute collection of digital inclusion technologies for seniors.
If you use any of TechSoup’s resources and want to have your story on the Local Impact Map, just email community [at] techsoup [dot] org with "Community Story" in the subject line.
No need to say much in the message — just a couple lines of what you do and a web link if you have one.
We’re looking for great stories like this one about nonprofits and libraries doing good work with technology.
Image: Senior at the "Benefits of Facebook" training at Alta Johns Creek Senior Center (Blue Hair Technology Group)
This work is published under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 4.0 International License.