Ben Reim is starting his second year as a volunteer tutor with the Junction Literacy Centre’s Seniors Computer Support Program. He works full time at a day job and once a week he finds time to help a senior at the Vernon library. He decided to sign on as a volunteer after he helped a friend, who was very grateful for Reim’s patient and simple approach to explaining new technology.
“Patience and taking things slowly is very important,” he said, adding that while he is not an expert, he has good basic computer knowledge that he is happy to share with an interested senior.
The key, he said, is to find out what the senior wants to learn about, then put it into manageable steps. Homework and practice between visits is also important.
Reim finds he mostly helps seniors with organizing their photos, grouping and managing e-mails and getting a better understanding of how the computer works.
He says he is still learning too, as sometimes the questions are beyond him, so he researches on the internet (especially YouTube) to find the answers.
Program coordinator Kathy Wylie interviews the seniors and tutors to make the right match.
“Most pairs work together once a week for up to three months,” she said. “For some, it can be just two to three times to get past the fear of the computer, then they just take off.”
Some volunteers are also able to help with iPads, tablets and smartphones.
Once matched, Wylie arranges for a “meet and greet” in the foyer of the Vernon library.
“The program brings seniors and their tutors into the downtown core and to our beautiful new library,” she said. “Seniors can bring their laptops with them or use the library’s computers.
“Some pairs also meet at Internet cafes — whatever works best for them.”
Seniors also receive a kit with some senior-friendly Web sites, a Community Guide, note book and a computer jargon sheet. The Literacy Centre charges a one-time $40 matching fee.
“This is our second year offering the program and for the first time we don’t have a wait list,” she said. “We invite seniors (55 plus) to call us if they’d like some help with computer basics.
“One senior told us that her tutor helped her to ‘demystify’ the computer. We’d also like to hear from anyone interested in volunteering their time to tutor a senior.”
Funding is provided by Interior Health and through a City of Vernon Community Grant.
For more information, contact Wylie at the Junction Literacy Centre at 250-549-2216 or firstname.lastname@example.org or check out the website at www.junctionliteracycentre.ca