Modern Maturity Center computer donation expands opportunities for seniors

From left, Amanda Harris, Carolyn Fredericks, executive director of the Modern Maturity Center,— Dover Mayor Robin Christiansen, Kimberly Gahage and Angelina Hardin, of UnitedHealthcare, and Karen Dresch, the computer tutor at Modern Maturity Center, participated in a ceremony in which UnitedHealthcare donated three laptop computers to the computer lab at the MMC on Wednesday. (Delaware State News photo by Mike Finney)

DOVER — The world of computers and the internet can be an intimidating thing to many seniors who might be wary of dipping their toes into the waters of technology.

However, Angelica Hardin, an executive director with the UnitedHealthcare Community Plan of Delaware, insists there is nothing to be afraid of after UnitedHealthcare donated three laptop computers and monitors for the computer lab at Dover’s Modern Maturity Center on Wednesday morning.

Ms. Hardin said that UnitedHealthcare’s Community Computers program has distributed around 3,000 computers nationwide since the program started in 2012.

The three at the Modern Maturity Center are the first donations that have been made in Delaware.

“I have been to many senior centers across the United States and I haven’t seen any senior center quite like this,” Ms. Hardin said, of the Modern Maturity Center. “This is remarkable.”

She said having computers in senior centers is an obvious fit, considering all the resources that often-underserved seniors can look up on the internet. She was happy to expand those online opportunities for seniors in Dover.

The computers will enable seniors and their families to access health information, apply for assistance programs and search for educational and other online resources.

“Many of the services that (UnitedHealthcare) have are online, such as finding providers, getting prescriptions, finding what is the best treatment or care for you, learning about benefits and comparing benefits,” said Ms. Hardin. “All of those are services that are online and all that you need are a computer and access to be able to navigate all this.”

Carolyn Fredericks, the executive director of the Modern Maturity Center, was excited about the addition to her facility’s small computer lab, tucked behind an office near the cafeteria.

“UnitedHealthcare has donated to bring our computer lab up-to-date,” Ms. Fredericks said. “They’ve given us three laptop computers and monitors and they also told me this morning that they’re also going to provide a printer to be in there.

“The laptops in the computer lab are for members and their caregivers to use. They can be used for a recreational purpose, they can be used to come in and do research and they can even be used for you to maybe email your grandkids.

“But we’re not going to leave you alone, because we have a computer tutor.”

Volunteering her expertise

That job belongs to Karen Dresch, who has volunteered as a computer tutor for the past five years at the Modern Maturity Center.

“This is so important,” Ms. Dresch said, of helping seniors get acclimated to computers and the internet. “When I start work with (seniors), they’re amazed at what you can find on the internet and what’s out there. They’re like, ‘I didn’t know I could do that,’ or ‘I didn’t know that was there,’ and it’s very exciting. I think I get even more excited than they get.

Two of the three computers and monitors that were donated by UnitedHealthcare to the Modern Maturity Center computer lab on Wednesday awaiting use by the center’s senior citizens. (Delaware State News photo by Mike Finney)

“I was a teacher for 35 years and I love to teach, and I love it when my students learn. Unlike some of the students I had worked with, these people all want to be here, want to learn and they’re so appreciative and most people come back time and time again because when you’re getting started on the internet there’s so much to learn.”

She said patience is a key when working with the senior population.

“They come in and they said, ‘Oh, my grandson knows more than I do,’ and then they say, ‘Well, my daughter tried to teach me, but she wasn’t patient enough with me,’” she said. “I’m just a good intermediary person.”

Ms. Dresch offers computer tutoring every Tuesday and Wednesday from 10:45 a.m. until 3 p.m. at the Modern Maturity Center.

She teaches the basics (what type of computer to purchase, general orientation, internet use, antivirus) and communication programs (email, Skype, Facebook). Her tutoring appointments are $5 an hour for members or $25 an hour for non-members.

The fee helps cover the internet usage in the computer lab.

Seniors get more tech-savvy

While it is true that seniors 65-years-old and older mostly avoided the internet in 2000 — the Pew Research Center discovered that only 14 percent were online users — the center also found that 67 percent of that same population were regular online users in 2017.

That same study found that four in 10 seniors now own Smartphones, more than double than did in 2013.

Ms. Dresch said things such as the UnitedHealthcare Community Computers program are helping to increase the access to technology for many seniors.

“This will enable more people to come in and two or three people can sit there at a time, because they don’t come in when I’m having a lesson, so they’ll be here when I’m not here,” she said.

“Now they can come in with a friend and might feel a little more comfortable or they can play around with nobody looking over their shoulder. I think it’s going to be great for them.”

Ms. Fredericks told a funny story to a crowd gathered for lunch at the Modern Maturity Center on Wednesday about one senior lady at the facility who was looking to get online many years ago.

“I remember years ago we had a lady and she wanted to learn to use a computer,” she said. “So, she went into the teacher and she said, ‘OK, just tell me first how do I turn it on?’ The teacher showed her how to turn it on. Then, she said, ‘OK, show me the site where I can find all the single men.’

“Well, I’m not sure that they’ll do that for you, you might have to learn that on your own, but we do have a computer lab for you so you can become a little more technological about how you’re dealing with things that happen in your life and to do some research.”

Amanda Harris, program director at the MMC, said the computer lab will be open for members and their caregivers on Mondays, Thursdays and Fridays from 9 a.m. until 3 p.m.

Dover Mayor Robin Christiansen attended Wednesday’s computer donation event and said that he could relate to the difficulties that seniors often face with technology.

“Let me tell you something, the computer that I have at home is operated by steam and whenever I have a difficult thing to do with my computer, I call my six-year-old grandson over and he gives me instructions on it,” Mayor Christiansen said, with a laugh.

“But we can’t be more proud of the Modern Maturity Center and the job that you do for our senior population. UnitedHealthcare, thank you for your efforts here.”

Delaware State News staff writer Mike Finney can be reached at mfinney@newszap.com.

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