You're never too old for tech savvy

URBANA — These iPad users may not care much for Twitter or Snapchat, but give them a Walgreen's app, and they're all over it.

Retirees at Clark-Lindsey Village were treated to an "iPad how to" seminar Friday afternoon, courtesy of Busey's tech experts.

Questions ranged from the basic — "Where does the password come from?" — to the tech-savvy — "Does the iPad have a screen-capture feature?"

(For the uninitiated, the answer to No. 2 is yes, just hit the home and power buttons at the same time, and it goes to your camera roll. Which prompted the question: "How do you access the camera roll?")

About 20 residents, many of them retired educators, attended the seminar hoping to master email or Skype to connect with far-flung kids and grandkids, download a cool bridge app, explore higher-level iPad functions or just decide whether to invest in one.

"We definitely had a wide variety of levels of experience," said Melissa Dague, who organized the event for Busey. "Some of them are old pros."

The average age, in fact, was well above 80. One participant was 99.

Some had had their iPads for a year or more, others for a matter of hours.

Shirley Mahaffey, a retired Parkland College instructor, is on her second iPad. Among her favorite uses is downloading books from the Urbana Free Library, which she calls "a fantastic service."

"I can read with it, play games with it, I do my banking with it. I don't know what I'd do without it," she said.

She attended Friday's session to "find out what I didn't know about it" — in particular, she wanted to find a bridge app, only to learn a friend had already downloaded one for her.

The tirelessly upbeat instructor, Busey IT specialist Mike Cornstubble, began with simple features such as where the "home" key is located and how to access wi-fi or set up email.

As residents munched on cookies and Chex mix, Cornstubble also took them on a tour of the App Store for conveniences they might have a special interest in — The New York Times online or Busey Bank, for instance.

"What is an app? An app is a computer program that allows you to do something," he explained.

Taking a leap of faith, he asked: "Does anybody use Facebook here?"

Silence.

"That's a whole lot of resounding 'No's,'" Cornstubble concluded.

There was much more interest in the apps for Walgreen's or Yahoo Finance, where retirees can keep an eye on stocks or check the overseas markets.

The seminar got started as an offshoot of Busey's wealth management group, said Chief Operating Officer Bob Plecki, who saw it as both an educational effort and a way to "impress your grandkids."

"To me, what's most impressive is how eager they are to learn. Everyone assumes they're not, but they are," he said. "We're all a little intimidated when new technology comes out."

Busey helpers floated around the room to make sure all of the residents were following Cornstubble's instructions.

One recurring problem: forgotten passwords created by well-meaning children or grandchildren who have since returned home to the coasts. Some residents consulted handwritten instructions. Old habits die hard.

Many residents already owned desktops and laptops, but for others, it had been years since they'd used computers regularly.

Mahaffey, a charter faculty member at Parkland, taught there for 22 years before retiring in 1989. Among her subjects? Computer software.

"This wasn't even thought of then. This is phenomenal by comparison," she said of her iPad.

Clare Gropp, a retired school librarian, was the first to introduce computers to schools in her district in Miami, Fla., but got away from it when she stopped working. "By the time I got back in, nothing was the same."

Gropp, who has a daughter in Connecticut, got her iPad for Christmas 2012 and has used it to do crossword puzzles or read The New York Times, but "I've never been able to get email to work."

"It's the simple things that most people have known for so long they forget how to tell you," said Gropp, who was resolved to try email again after Friday's session.

Some residents who had yet to purchase an iPad were there to see if it was worth buying one.

"It's still a debate," said Moreland Herrin, who already has a desktop, laptop and a Samsung handheld computer, courtesy of his grandson.

Millie Sims, a retired Champaign teacher/librarian, has other computers she uses for e-banking, church activities or research for her community work. She uses her iPad mostly for entertainment — music, photos, surfing the Web.

"I use it every night. I'm an experimenter. I just touch everything," she said, but confessed, "My grandson does this better than I can."

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ROB McCOLLEY wrote on January 11, 2014 at 7:01 am
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Hmm. It would be nice if someone taught them Ubuntu, but I guess there's no profit motive.