When dinner is over at Audrey Jones home, she turns on the TV. But she also tunes in to her laptop - all evening long. Audrey is president of the seniors computer club at the Kent Street Activity Centre in White Rock, a large and dynamic group.
I learned how to make a movie out of still pictures at a presentation on a cruise ship, Audrey says with enthusiasm.
She used Microsoft Photo Gallery to put together a movie of her New York Trip. "The Empire State Building is purple, green and then pink, and Rod Stewart is singing 'Manhattan.'"
Like many computer users, Audrey is drawn to the ease of accessing information online.
I had a medical problem 23 years ago and I went to the library, she says. It made a difference for me. Knowledge is power. Right now, Im renovating my kitchen and looking up information online. The computer is like a library on my lap.
The club Audrey leads has about 200 members.They meet every Wednesday afternoon from 12:30 to 2:30 in the centres auditorium. Local experts and business representatives are invited to use the clubs computer, projector and screen. They give lively presentations and answer members questions.
Networking opportunities at the coffee break and the annual Christmas gathering also enhance the clubs popularity.
"I try to give the club a social feel," says Audrey. "I come half-an-hour early and talk to members. I make sure the new members feel welcome too."
The club started in the 1990s and is run by a board of volunteers, who meet formally three times a year. Besides organizing weekly presentations, with a break during the summer months, the club has a website (http://www.whiterockseniorscomputerclub.com), where they post information about upcoming presentations as well as computer tips and other techie news.
Mary Ponsford, the clubs program co-ordinator, has brought in speakers to discuss iPods, Windows 7, researching online, Excel, shopping for a computer, Power Point presentations and webcams.
"We also have regular back-to-basics presentations," says Mary, "to review the computer for beginners."
"Our presenters are from businesses in the White Rock area," she adds. "They volunteer their time, and we offer them transportation costs and soup!"
Members can attend two computer club gatherings at no cost, and pay $12 for a years membership, if they join. They must also become a member of the centre.
Audrey says people in the club already know how to email and work with MS Office. "It's all visual lessons," she says about their services. "We send out emails to let members know what presentation will be put on. In the winter, the turnout is a lot larger."
Still, on this warm spring day, members fill about 60 seats. One presenter is at the computer in the front of the darkened auditorium, clicking on sites, while another moves around the audience, handing a microphone to an equal number of men and women with questions.
"Should I take the battery out of my laptop so it will last longer?" someone asks. (The consensus is to leave the battery in.)
"A friend told me she had to pay $100 to the retailer to take out unnecessary programs," another person says.
"You can uninstall the programs yourself, if you feel capable," another member suggests, while the presenter agrees it is unfortunate manufacturers install some programs for advertising benefits.
At 2:30 p.m., Audrey thanks the presenters and turns on the lights.
She admits shes learned a lot since joining the club and plans to share her experiences with others.
"Were ending this year with a panel of experts," says Audrey. "It sounds intimidating, but the experts are ourselves."
A Sampling of Technical Tips covered by the Club:
- Computer Terminology for Beginners
- Guide to avoid online scams
- Digital Memory Cards (for the camera)
- Free Anti-Virus Program Ratings
- Nettiquette (rules using email on the net)
- Fix the computer
- Save this file (sending large files)
- Security tips online
Similar clubs are available to seniors in Cloverdale and Newton, two bedroom communities of Vancouver, not far from White Rock.
Calling all experts!
A local group in the process of organizing a 50+ cycling club through White Rock Leisure Services is looking for a volunteer to set up and manage their Facebook group. Is there anyone in the Computer Club that would put together and manage a Facebook account for the bike club?
"We could post all our rides and update the weather condition info real time, as well as communicate with other interested parties once they see the Facebook info. Once we have the account running we could include photos, ride descriptions, riding vacations, and use it for networking (it might help the Computer Club members too)."
JULY 2010 SENIOR LIVING MAGAZINE VANCOUVER AND LOWER MAINLAND
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