Classes teach new skills

Published 5:54 pm Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Remember life before computers? Actually, such technology goes way back to the use of an abacus.

I had a slide rule to figure out square roots in chemistry class back in the days of rock–and–roll music. Hand held calculators weren’t on the scene until I entered college.

Now I wonder … do students learn multiplication tables today?

Modern–day electronic computers leapt into our lives in the 1940s with Baby Boomers, staying mostly in the business realm.

In the late 1980s the Internet was created, and the world became instantly smaller. By the mid 1990s we’d entered the information age. Maybe it should be called communication age, as that’s what e–mail and Twitter bring.

What are Baby Boomers, and generations before them, doing with computers today? They’re right in there clicking keys with the rest of the world.

Heardmont Park Senior Center holds monthly computer classes, sponsored by the Harrison Regional Library in Columbiana. On July 22 Assistant Library Director Kim Emrick led the class.

“My goal is to teach opening e–mail attachments, and how to copy, paste and format Microsoft Word,” she said.

I looked over her shoulder, as student Sandy Craft clicked away. Outside the computer lab, music commenced playing for dance class. Dancers came onto the floor, doing the rumba.

Heardmont Senior Center Director Teresa Green came into the computer lab to observe.

“We have Wii bowling coming soon,” she said. “Heardmont folks have very active lives outside these walls. Our goal is to provide opportunities for socialization, more than anything else.”

At a computer, Craft had clearly conquered her goal.

“I’ve been using e–mail 10 years, primarily for coordinating committees. Today, I needed to clarify opening attachments,” she said.

Heardmont students and instructor agreed computers require focus, practice and continued training in order to be proficient. Next month’s class at Heardmont is how to make a list using an Excel spreadsheet.

Now, working crossword puzzles are touted to prevent mental decline. But studies of aging minds show that being computer savvy and regularly searching the Internet go hand-in-hand with mental health. That’s good news, and another reason for learning new skills at any age.

Gladys Hodge Sherrer can be reached by e–mail at