‘Technology makes life more interesting’

Ashby Ponds neighbors applaud its many benefits

Created date

October 8th, 2019
(Back row, from left) Technology club members Nan Krueger, Joan Helble, Mary Alice Babka, Elaine Wienholt, and Greg Johnson. (Front row, from left) Kelsey Hunt and Doug Strait.

(Back row, from left) Technology club members Nan Krueger, Joan Helble, Mary Alice Babka, Elaine Wienholt, and Greg Johnson. (Front row, from left) Kelsey Hunt and Doug Strait.

According to a recent survey, AARP projects that, “by the year 2030, nearly 132 million Americans age 50 and older will spend upwards of $84 billion a year on technology products.” The survey went on to report that, currently, “91% of those age 50-plus report using a computer, and 94% say technology helps them keep in touch with friends and family.”

Ashby Ponds, an Erickson Living community in Ashburn, Va., illustrates this growing trend. In addition to campuswide computer support programs, including iPad learning classes and technology tutors, numerous community members support their neighbors with their own technological endeavors. 

An expert in exponential technology, community member Doug Strait works with university professors in the study of new uses for technology, while others, like Joan Helble, admit that daily technology usage is a very new phenomenon in her life.

“That’s what’s so wonderful about our community,” says Resident Life Coordinator Kelsey Hunt. “It’s our goal to meet residents where they are when it comes to all aspects of life, including the growing use of technology.”

Making life easier

“I find that the best part of technology is the many different ways it connects people and makes life easier,” says community member Nan Krueger, who created Ashby Ponds’ first iPad user class shortly after her move in 2014.

Since that time, the class’s popularity grew exponentially, necessitating support from Ashby Ponds staff. Today, Hunt and her team provide iPad instruction and support the teen technology program, wherein local high school students provide one-on-one tutoring for a wide variety of technology uses. 

Mary Alice Babka is grateful for the support she received from Nan after attending the iPad user classes.

“I now sit down every morning with my coffee, open my iPad and look at mail, use my apps, and watch YouTube videos,” she says. “I find that although face-to-face interaction is preferable, technology allows me to keep in touch with a dear friend who keeps a conflicting schedule.”

When it comes to technology usage, there doesn’t seem to be an application that community member Greg Johnson doesn’t utilize.

Whether it’s checking email, clicking links to provide resources to charities, visiting social media sites, working in Google groups, checking on his My Erickson account, or using a lunar calendar app to predict the best time to catch fish, Greg is fully connected.

“Technology makes life more interesting,” he says, looking down at his Android watch to confirm the number of steps he’s walked today.

Keeping connected

Shortly after moving to Ashby Ponds in 2016, Elaine Wienholt discovered technology’s ability to connect her to much-needed resources and recommendations.

“I enjoy going out but was in need of someone to take care of my cat,” she says. “That’s when I discovered the Next-Door app, which now connects me with almost 300 neighbors. If I pose a question, any registered user of the app can respond.”

Elaine also uses her Fitbit daily.

“I like to see how much I don’t walk,” she laughs. “I also use Facebook to follow my grandchildren in Japan, China, California, and Vermont. It’s a wonderful way to keep up with their lives.”

Like Mary Alice, Elaine turns to YouTube to discover new talents. 

“I recently learned how to sew by watching YouTube videos,” she says. “I love how they teach you, step-by-step, how to do something new.”

Because of technology’s worldwide reach, Elaine also works from her home computer to provide online transcription services for the Smithsonian Institution. 

“It is part of an effort to digitize vast amounts of material,” she says. “Because I have both the time and ability, I’m happy to help.”

Something for everyone

Unlike some of her neighbors, community member Joan Helble admits that daily technology usage did not come naturally to her.

“I was dragged into the computer age by my grandson,” she says. “Fortunately for me, my neighbors possess the knowledge that got me up and running.”

Joan turned to the iPad users group for direction and now uses an online calendar, something she swore she’d never do, and emails friends and family daily.

“I was definitely a reluctant learner as I’ve always been a paper person,” she says. “But there is such an openness here [at Ashby Ponds]; everyone is so friendly and supportive. That is very reassuring to someone who is new to technology and just learning the ropes.”

And for Doug Strait, whose 53-year career included the management of advanced technology programs, sharing his passion for technology boasts far-reaching benefits.

“My goal in creating the advanced technology club at Ashby Ponds is to keep residents engaged in what’s coming, to be excited about the future, and to keep us all forward thinking” he says. “When it comes to technology, there is little point in looking behind. Rather, all the excitement is with what is to come. And that’s a gift to us all.”