Seniors Connect to the Internet and with Each Other

By Candace Kelley

At the Internet Cafe for seniors, Helen Wyatt can still remember the good ole days.

“I had a typewriter that was similar. You could backspace and get rid of, if you left something out,” she said.

She’s a little hesitant to learn about computers but gets excited about the possibilities.

“My daughter does everything on the computer — she pays her bills, she does everything,” Wyatt said.

The Internet Cafe, created for seniors, is housed in the Edison Senior Center. Judith Gillingham is the assistant director for aging. She says these computers have opened up a whole new world for many who may feel disconnected.

“I have seniors of different nationalities who log on to the PCs and read news about their country,” Gillingham said.

And checking emails is another popular pastime. But Gillingham says the idea is to get seniors even more engaged online so she helped created an inviting atmosphere where people can grab coffee or tea for free. It’s a place where seniors not only get to go online, but get to enjoy each other.

“We serve lunch to five to 75. Senior citizens can join for a suggested donation at $2.25 but it finances are difficult you don’t need to make a donation to have lunch here,” Gillingham said.

According to the Pew Research Center, 59 percent of all seniors go online and 71 percent of those users go on every day or almost every day.

But many of those seniors need direction on the basics and on what to do and what not to do. Volunteers teach classes and seniors are encouraged to bring their own laptops, iPads or other portable devices to the to learn how to connect to the Wi-Fi.

The seniors I spoke to say they really enjoy coming to the internet cafe because it’s open to the public and because once they get online, they can stay on for as long as they want.

It’s a different story, they say, at the local library where you can go online, but for a limited amount of time.

“They tell you how many minutes you have,” said one senior.

So far no one in this group is interested in Tweeting or getting online on their smart phones. Many of them still have flip phones and favor land lines. And there are some who say they just can’t completely give in to the world wide web.

“My daughter gave me a TV, a computer, but I don’t want it,” Wyatt said.

But when she does want to take a ride on the information highway, she can get in the driver’s seat here at the Internet Cafe, enjoy some friends and get online.