Spotlight on Ohlone:
Seniors learning about new-age communication methods

By Ben Aguirre Jr.

Friday, October 16, 2009—Reprinted from Inside Bay Area.

NEWARK—James Manuel moved to the United States just a few years ago from his native Philippines.

Being several thousands miles from his homeland, he often makes phone calls to the islands where he grew up, sometimes to speak to relatives, other times to check on his pension checks.

But international phone calls are expensive, and the phone cards Manuel purchased often didn't last nearly as long as advertised.

Little did he know there was a cheaper and more efficient way to do things—over the Internet.

The 65-year-old Newark resident is among a growing number of senior citizens becoming aware that much of the world now is connected by computers, and surprised that making international phone calls, sharing photos and catching up with loved ones can be done with just a few clicks of a computer mouse.

But for many of them, the question still remains: How do I do that?

Manuel sought answers at the Newark Senior Center, where a pair of Ohlone College professors are volunteering their time to teach seniors the skills to communicate in this world of advanced technology.

"Were it not for this class, I would not know what I know today," said Manuel, who now cruises YouTube for entertainment, keeps in touch with relatives on Facebook, and phones home using a service called Skype.

The class is offered in four-session segments, which participants register for through the Senior Center, at 7401 Enterprise Drive. A $9 nominal fee is required for Newark residents, and a $10 price is charged for nonresidents.

On a recent Wednesday, Ohlone College computer applications Professor Rick Arellano brought to class a few gadgets that are commonplace among younger adults, but still are foreign to some seniors: a miniature laptop computer called a netbook and a pocket-size camcorder called a Flip digital video camera.

He showed the items to the half-dozen students in his class, and then demonstrated how to use them.

Using the miniature computer, Arellano called his sister in Peru—which amazed students because the service he used allowed them to see one another on the computer—and then used the camera to make a short film of his students, which he put on the Internet.

"Now the whole world can see you," Arellano said to the class.

In subsequent classes, Arellano and Professor Elisa Webb—who is co-teaching the course—also plan to show seniors how to create and use e-mail, how to search the Internet, and show them where they can watch television, listen to the radio and keep up on current events.

"You don't have to wait for the 11 o'clock news anymore. You can get your news anytime on your computer," Arellano said.

After the recent session, student Karen Bridges, of Newark, said she was excited about the technology and looked forward to using it to keep in touch with her grandchildren when they go off to college next year.

For more information about the class, which meets from 2 to 4 p.m. Wednesdays, contact the Newark Senior Center at 510-742-4840.

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