Three elderly women and a man sat around a table in Paul’s Run’s library recently, huddled over their iPads and listening intently to Community Life Director, Jeri Iacono’s directions.
“The most important thing you need to know is how to turn it on,” she told the group. “Don’t be afraid of hurting it. Be patient and when you don’t know how to get out of something, hit the home button,” she added, pointing to the large round button at the base of the iPad.
Paul’s Run, Liberty’s continuing care retirement community in Northeast Philadelphia, started bi-weekly iPad instructional classes last fall. Community Life staff were trained by Generation Connect, a company that specializes in empowering older adults to adopt the iPad to feel secure and confident in their technology abilities.
Jeri said she was surprised to see how many residents there, where the average age is 89, were using iPads and iPhones.
“We learned how to teach our residents the essentials such as basic navigation and typing, email, photos, viewing websites, and downloading apps,” Jeri said. “It’s our hope that through these instructional classes they are able to use iPads to become more connected with their loved ones and the world around us.”
Although seniors are less likely than other age groups when it comes to going online, a June 2012 report from the Pew Internet and America Life Project shows for the first time more than half of American adults age 65 and older use the internet and email. Of these internet users age 65 and older, 86% use email and about half of them do it daily.
Paul’s Run resident Marian Passmore is thrilled she can send emails on her iPad to friends and family in Florida and as far away as Japan. However, the 90 year old woman still finds the technology confusing.
“I think my biggest problem is that I don’t write any directions down and I can’t remember how to do it later,” she explained. “When I get annoyed I don’t bother with it for a week,” she added, which prompted her to attend this instructional session.
At 91, Helen Desman is fairly savvy with her iPad, having used one for more than five years.
“I can’t stand a day when I am not on it,” Helen said. She explained that her late husband used a desktop computer for many years, but she wanted nothing to do with it until he showed her how to play games on it. After he suffered a major stroke and needed long-term care outside their home, she said she turned to the computer as a friend to cope with the loneliness. When she moved to Paul’s Run, the computer wouldn’t fit into her studio apartment, so her daughter gave her an iPad to use instead.
“I have a Kindle on here. I read incessantly. I play a lot of games, mahjong, poker, blackjack. I have a good time with that. I am a high roller,” she said with smile. She also loves to receive the emailed photos of her grandson.
Arlen Cohen, who also attended a recent session, said she loves to FaceTime, also known as video chat, on her iPad with her 19-month old great-grandson in New York. She also loves to have an online search engine at her finger tips.
“It’s remarkable,” she said. “Anything you want to know you can find out in a second.”
Jack Burnbaum is an iPad “newbie,” as Jeri calls him. He has only had his for a few weeks.
“Safari is just like the ‘E’ on your home computer for internet explorer,” she explained.
“I like the way the search works on this better than the desktop computer,” he said. “I do a lot of searching on the computer.”
But it seems one instructional session isn’t enough for Jack and the others. They have a fountain of questions, but after an hour, they are eager to move to other scheduled activities at Paul’s Run. In the meantime, they’ll practice what they learned and be back again in a few weeks to get another lesson.