WENATCHEE - The Wenatchee Valley Senior Activity Center, in partnership with the NCW Tech Alliance, held a Tech Support Popup Event in the senior center social hall on November 29 to provide members with an opportunity to receive free tech help for their digital devices.
The popup events are run at public venues throughout North Central Washington as part of the Tech Alliance's Digital Equity Initiative, aiming to provide opportunities for all residents to gain access to technology and technology literacy. The events are run by Tech Alliance staff and volunteers and are free for anyone to attend.
One of the Digital Equity Initiative's key target audiences is the local senior population. Seniors can benefit greatly from access to technology through online services meant to improve their quality of life. For example, they can use online services to sign up for exercise classes, order groceries and medications, and access telehealth services to gain better access to medical care. But the key to taking advantage of these services is basic literacy and understanding of how to use smartphones and computers.
Juan Servin, a Tech Alliance volunteer, explained, "The senior community, they didn't have at school the same classes as we do now... There is a big gap for them of knowledge. They need to get connected to technology, so we are bringing to them those skills so they can have the same opportunities as everyone."
One of the common themes that the tech support volunteers hear from seniors is that they are intimidated by technology and feel "stupid" when it comes to using smartphones and computers. "No, you're not stupid," said Conrad Billman, Technology Programs Director for the Tech Alliance, who also helped staff the event. "Technology advances so fast and you have to continue to learn those new systems. That is what we're here to do - to help senior citizens bridge that gap. You're not stupid - you just don't understand it."
Russ Alman, communications director for the senior center and member of the Tech Alliance's policy board, has been a strong proponent of bringing this program to the senior center. "In my previous career, I provided on-site computer technical support to individuals in their homes, and many of my clients were seniors. So I've experienced first hand how basic understanding of technology can enhance their quality of life. As more and more everyday services move online, it's critical that we teach seniors how to access them so that they aren't left behind."
Over a period of three hours, Servin, Billman and Alman were able to help 10 seniors with technology questions on smartphones, tablets and laptops. The feedback from the support recipients was overwhelmingly positive. They were also exicted to hear that the two organizations are making plans to offer the tech popup events at the senior center on a regular basis beginning in 2024. "We are looking to make these tech popups a regular event," said Alman. "Based on the response we got today, I'm confident that these events will be popular whenever we hold them."
For more information about the NCW Tech Help initiative, as well as upcoming technology pop-up events, visit ncwtechhelp.org. For upcoming technology training and events at the Senior Center, visit their website at wenatcheeseniorcenter.com or contact Russ Alman at firstname.lastname@example.org or 509-433-7824.