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Tech support

Apple enthusiasts help neighbors get familiar with iPads

Created date

March 22nd, 2018
Barbara Zorn teaches a variety of free classes on the iPad at Oak Crest, the Erickson Living community in Parkville, Md., where she resides.

Barbara Zorn teaches a variety of free classes on the iPad at Oak Crest.

Eight years ago, Barbara Zorn traded the regular paper calendar she used to keep track of her appointments and important dates for the electronic calendar on her iPad. She now relies on technology to keep her day-to-day life running smoothly, and she’s never looked back.

“I take my iPad and my iPhone with me everywhere I go,” says Barbara. “The calendar app is really important for me. I keep my weekly schedule on there. If I would ever lose that, I would be up the creek.”

But it’s not just the calendar that has Barbara hooked on her iPad. She also uses it to email friends and family; explore the Web; take and share photos; bank and shop online; as well as access documents, letters, and reports.

Bridging the technology gap

According to Pew Research Center, Barbara is part of an ever-growing population of tech-savvy seniors embracing the latest electronic gadgets. Roughly one-third of seniors owned a tablet in 2017, Pew reports. This represents a double-digit increase in tablet ownership since 2013.

To help support the fast-growing number of iPad users at Oak Crest, the Erickson Living community in Parkville, Md., where Barbara lives, she, along with neighbor Scott Phillips, started an iPad owner’s forum featuring free on-site classes.

“One of the first things I say to people who come to the classes is, ‘Why did you get the device, and what do you want to do with it?’” says Barbara. “Typically, people want to use it to text message and email family, surf the Web, etc.”

Depending on your skill level, Barbara offers three options for iPad users. The first, an iPad Users Mentoring Group, is designed for new iPad users. The class features hands-on lessons that focus on basic use of the iPad and how to use important applications like calendar, mail, and the Internet browser Safari. Experienced mentors are available to help individuals.

The second option, simply called the iPad Users Group, is slightly more advanced and features in-depth presentations about specific applications; explores solutions to specific problems; and allows participants to share their experiences.

Last, informal drop-in classes offer one-on-one assistance for users who need help troubleshooting specific problems.

“When we started meeting back in 2013, tablets were just becoming very popular, and we were so busy that we would have 30 to 40 people in our mentoring class,” says Barbara. “However, many of the people who are now moving into the community are already familiar with technology, and the mentoring class has leveled off to about 10 to 15 people. We also identify residents who are quick learners and recruit them to be helpers and mentors.”

Cal Johnson is one of those helpers. Cal traded in his personal desktop computer for an iPad when he moved to Oak Crest and took advantage of the free iPad classes soon after. He now mentors community members during the drop-in sessions.

“I signed up for the iPad Users Group in 2014,” says Cal. “Up until then I had received a little help from my son-in-law who lives in Arizona but mostly just explored the iPad on my own. Without the classes, I’m sure it would have taken me longer to get where I am now.”

‘I learn something new every time I go’

Dolores Ford took her first class with Barbara two and a half years ago but occasionally still drops in for a refresher.

“I learn something new every time I go,” says Dolores, who uses her iPad for news, weather, Facebook, and Siri, a voice-activated program that answers questions and makes recommendations.

“I really didn’t have much knowledge about the iPad when I first got it, so when I discovered the iPad Users Group I thought, ‘This is perfect!’” says Dolores. “Barbara is so great at teaching and helping everyone. It’s great having something like this right here in-house and not having to get in the car and travel somewhere to learn about it.”

For Barbara, the classes are a labor of love. “People have been very thankful and gracious,” she says. “It’s nice getting to know one another as we are helping people. I think we provide a really decent service for residents who want to learn how to use technology and use it right here in their own home.”