Program helps older adults reach computer literacy

Retired mail carrier Ronald Boyd was tired of asking his wife to help him operate the couple's home computer.

Then he saw an item in the newspaper describing a computer training class for adults. "I'm a senior citizen and I hate to be left out," he says.

Now he won't be. On Saturday, Boyd will graduate from his second 10-week session of computer training offered by the nonprofit Westside Health Authority's Community Technology Center in Austin.

 "I also took an introduction (to) basic computer class, graduated from that, and I went on to Word, Excel and Powerpoint," said Boyd, 67. "That's what I'm graduating from now."

Boyd will be among 25 adults, ranging in age from their 30s to 70s, to be recognized this weekend at a graduation ceremony from noon to 3 p.m. Saturday at Trinity Baptist Church at 1210 N. Waller Ave.

"I've learned what the computer is all about and how to maneuver through it, and in this day and age, that's what's needed," he says.

This is the sixth year that the WHA Community Technology Center at 5417 W. Division St., has offered the computer training programs.  In addition to basic classes, one in Advanced Word and Excel is offered.  All courses are free after a registration fee is paid.

Student Freddy May Moon, 62, of Austin, spoke enthusiastically about what she learned in the program.

"I learned how to work with PowerPoint, how to do a budget and how to do a spreadsheet," Moon says.  "I already knew how to do a little bit on the computer, but this enhanced my knowledge - with Word also."

"This program is excellent," adds retired electrical engineer Carlyle Caesar, 58, of the city's Near West Side.  "I learned how to create Excel spreadsheets and Word documents, write letters and flyers.  Now I can even create a budget to handle my finances."

Program coordinator and instructor Kathy Roach says she gets plenty of satisfaction out of seeing her students improve their skills over the course of the 10-week program.

"They're very happy once they complete a lesson," she says.  "That's what I most enjoy - when our mission is successful."

Roach says the world has changed immensely since the 1980s due to the computer, and it's important for older adults to update their skills.

"We use it for our livelihoods now for everything," she says.  "Job applications are all on the Internet.  Most companies want their workers to be able to go onto the Internet, download and attach.  We help people get up-to-date and kept up on everything."

At least 20 percent of the program's participants get new jobs as a result of their improved skills, according to WHA Information Technology Manager and instructor Don McCoy.

Registration for new courses runs Oct. 20 through Nov. 20.  Roach says the tentative start date for classes is Nov. 24.