Local Classes Help Valley Seniors Navigate Technology

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio — Lynne Azar’s 91-year-old mother kept her cognitive skills sharp by using an iPad when she was in her late 70s.

Her mother kept abreast of current events, used FaceTime with her grandchildren and viewed pictures of them on her tablet. 

Azar, senior outreach coordinator for Jewish Family and Community Services and Jewish Community Center of Youngstown, teaches twice monthly workshops on Tuesdays as those 60 and older learn about email, social media, insurance, online banking and more on their electronic devices at the Community Center.

Grants from the Mahoning and Trumbull County Mental Health and Recovery Boards sponsor these Tech Tuesday classes.

During her gerontology program at Youngstown State University, she installed 60 Amazon Echo Dots at Broadway Park – an independent senior living community in Youngstown — and taught residents how to use them.

“I saw the incredible benefits of technology,” says Azar, who studied this field at Kent State University. “I also saw how many of them were missing that part of what technology could do for them.

“That’s why I became passionate about connecting them, and keeping them connected and up to date.”

The classes at the JCC are free and open to the public. Classes will meet from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Jan. 18, Feb. 1, Feb. 15, March 1, March 15, April 5, April 19, May 3 and May 17.

Anyone interested can come to the center’s front desk and sign in, click HERE or call 330 746 3251. 

The classes started last September once a month, but have been increased to two times because of interest. 

“Sometimes 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. is not even enough time,” Azar says.

Lynne Azar teaches a class of six seniors about connecting to Wi-Fi and accessing the internet.

Smartphones, laptops, tablets, computers and other questions are discussed during these two-hour sessions. She says medical records, Medicare, veterans’ benefits, insurance and other facets of their lives are online.

“I’m trying to fill the gap by getting all these people up to date with that,” Azar says.

According to AARP, annual tech spending by those 50 and older increased from $394 to $1,144 per person in 2021. Smartphones, smart TVs and earbuds and Bluetooth headsets were the top three purchases.

With those purchases, it’s important to remember blocking emails, phone calls, setting up strong passwords and staying safe online.

“If you don’t know the person on Facebook, don’t accept their invitation,” she says.

Azar shows how to utilize apps on phones, tablets and even how to set up an email account. She has an Amazon Alexa in the classroom with her laptop projected onto a screen for all the attendees to view.

“If you’re patient with them, they’ll learn it,” she says.

Eugene Bennett from Girard held up his red flip phone during the class. He says he had a smartphone, but didn’t understand how to operate it – trading it in for his current one.

“As far as having a telephone with a computer on it and all that stuff, I don’t know anything about it,” he says.

Sara Flores from Youngstown was confused by QR codes, how to make them function. Her grandson moved her computer to another room of her house, but the speakers are not connected. 

“You just want to feel independent, safe, capable and feel confident when you get on the computer,” Flores says. “Then you can reach people you didn’t think you could reach, and do things you didn’t think you could do.”

With the rise of artificial intelligence and other forms of technology, it’s important for older adults to stay current, she says.

“If they get behind, we’re going to lose a lot of people,” Azar says.

Pictured at top: Lynne Azar teaches tech workshop classes for seniors like Eugene Bennett at the Jewish Community Center of Youngstown.

Copyright 2022 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.