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Tech-savvy seniors build popular website

Online community resource gets thousands of hits a month

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March 22nd, 2016
Ann's Choice Web-sters

(From left) Ann’s Choice residents Gail Dahlen, Bob Klimek, Emma Schobel, and Keith Lawrence are four of the community’s 15-member “Web-sters” team.

In February 2011, with help from the community resources team, Ann’s Choice resident Bob Klimek officially launched the community’s resident activity website.

When Bob perceived a need to make information about Ann’s Choice available online to his 2,000-plus campus neighbors, he applied his programming skills to make it happen.

Five years later, the “Web-sters,” the team of residents who monitor and update the site, has grown from 5 to 15 members, and the site map contains links to information about every club, activity, event, and service available at the Bucks County, Pa., Erickson Living community.

Bob is the group’s Web guru and its representative to the Ann’s Choice Website Council.

“We are constantly adding new sections and new information about who we are, where we live, who works here, and our history,” he says. 

Residents needn’t be computer or Web savvy to join the team. “They just need a desire to build and support this small part of our home and our environment,” says Bob.

It’s an excellent group for people who want to perform a valuable service but don’t cotton to monthly meetings; the Web-sters do nearly everything online.

Meet some Web-sters

Bob first recruited Keith Lawrence, already an experienced computer user when the Lawrences moved to Ann’s Choice from Huntingdon Valley.

He describes his involvement as interesting, fun, and a good way to connect with other people who live here; they’re the main sources of information for the site’s 150-some clubs and events pages.

“The site gets 10,000 to 14,000 hits a month,” Keith says. Most come from people checking how many meals they’ve used on their monthly 20- or 30-meal flexible dining plans.

The Web-sters take turns posting the daily meal totals they receive from Dining Services. Keith posts on Tuesdays. On Mondays and Wednesdays he updates the daily events calendar. On another day, he updates the campus restaurants’ take-out menus. 

The newest Web-ster, former Horsham resident Emma Schobel, joined in response to a posting for someone proficient at Microsoft Word. 

At first, she did website editing. Now she monitors eight different arts-related, special-interest groups.

Emma had long been a regular site visitor because it let her access anything and everything about her community. 

She still visits the site, even when she’s off for the summer at the Jersey Shore. Emma monitors her sections and keeps up with campus activities from her house on Long Beach Island.  

When she returns to Ann’s Choice in the fall, she tracks her flex meal totals and checks the daily menus at the five campus restaurants; Emma uses her meals to host her off-campus friends and dinner group members to meals at Ann’s Choice. 

eBay, Ann’s Choice-style

Gail Dahlen was Internet savvy when she joined the Web-sters two years ago. “I thought I could be helpful,” she says. “Plus, I wanted to learn, and what better way to learn than to do it?”

Among her website sections, Gail is responsible for the “Buy or Sell” page. “It’s very dynamic and lots of fun,” she says. “People want to buy or sell all the time.” 

Her postings have included furniture, vehicles, golf clubs, and even a piano. 

Gail also updates the “Outside Community Events” pages, information such as library programs, concerts, and school news in neighboring communities like Warminster, the town she moved from. 

She’s proud to be part of such an important service as the website. At a small retirement community, the resources and skill sets might not exist to mount such a project. 

“Bob has said many times that we’re the leading edge, which is why we try to be as accurate as we can,” says Gail.

As one example of the website’s trailblazing reputation, the Web-sters helped Wind Crest, Ann’s Choice’s sister community in Denver, Colo., get its website up and running.

“As far as we know,” Bob says, “our site is the oldest of any of the Erickson Living community member sites, and we feel it is the best.”

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