Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Seniors get lessons in Facebook, Skype, social networking

Beth Resendes, ConnectedLiving senior director of training, works with Mary McConnell, 92, at the Freedom Inn at Bay Pines in St. Petersburg as Harry Crouse, 82, observes. Crouse has expanded his outreach: “I’m on Facebook with three or four friends so far.”

JIM DAMASKE | Times

Beth Resendes, ConnectedLiving senior director of training, works with Mary McConnell, 92, at the Freedom Inn at Bay Pines in St. Petersburg as Harry Crouse, 82, observes. Crouse has expanded his outreach: “I’m on Facebook with three or four friends so far.”

By Fred W. Wright Jr.

Times Correspondent

Once the solitaire game pops up on the computer monitor, Mary McConnell, 92, reaches up with her right index finger, touches a card and drags the 4 of clubs to the 5 of hearts. The game is on.

McConnell, who lives at the Freedom Inn at Bay Pines assisted living facility in St. Petersburg, is expanding her computer skills and learning to email her children, who are scattered around the country.

McConnell sits at one of two computers in the facility's Internet cafe, sharing space with three aquariums and a flat-screen TV. It is here that about a third of the facility's 65 residents come to learn computer skills, create connections to their friends and families outside Freedom Inn's walls and enrich their daily lives.

The computers and training are provided by ConnectedLiving, based in Quincy, Mass. The company has contracts with similar facilities in 26 states, including 17 in Florida. In six years, the company has become the largest provider of training designed to "connect the older generation into the digital world," according to CEO Sarah Hoit.

When seniors move into an assisted living community, they not only want to remain in contact with family and friends, but "they want to know the others in their new community. What are their interests? Do they like to go to museums? Out to eat?

"In the past, seniors were the largest disconnected population," Hoit said.

Members of senior living communities often are limited in their interactions with others. While most facilities provide enrichment activities, the Internet offers potentials unlimited by time, space or age.

Some seniors come to an assisted living facility with well-honed email and social media skills, often even with their own laptop or iPad. Others don't.

For Harry Crouse, 82, a former resident of St. Pete Beach who decorates his wheelchair with American flags, computers had been part of his business world. What he wanted — and says he finally got through ConnectedLiving — was more information about the planned day-to-day and week-to-week activities at Freedom Inn.

Now he has it. Part of the package ConnectedLiving offers is abundant information about all members of the community, staff and residents alike, as well as menus, scheduled events, off-site activities, even a complaint process for questions and concerns.

And Crouse's social outreach has increased. "I'm on Facebook with three or four friends so far," he said.

The in-house package includes a touch-screen menu that will link residents to friends, family, email, games, personal journals and photos and, of course, the Internet. It's free and, with a password, residents can go wherever they want in the digital universe. The access is as private as a resident may want. Signing up for such social media sites as Facebook or Twitter is strictly optional.

Besides solitaire, the most popular activity seems to be learning how to use Skype, a computer-to-computer video software program that can mean a live conversation with friends and family. And since ConnectedLiving provides tech support via Skype 12 hours a day, often that conversation is with Darren or Anna, who become digital friends as well as tech supporters.

For 71-year-old Art Wyeth, who has been at Freedom Inn just about a year, the Internet connection means he can look up the airplanes he used to fly as a charter pilot. Right now, he's surfing for images of a Grumman Widgeon. The twin-engine, five-passenger aircraft was one of his favorites.

Wyeth hasn't been a pilot since a near-fatal industrial accident decades ago. But with the Internet, he can still dream, he says.

Fred W. Wright Jr. is a freelance writer based in Seminole. He can be reached at [email protected]

Seniors get lessons in Facebook, Skype, social networking 06/25/13 [Last modified: Thursday, June 20, 2013 11:23am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Editorial: UF shows how to preserve free speech

    Editorials

    The University of Florida was forced to navigate a treacherous terrain of constitutional concerns and public safety this week, all in a glaring public spotlight. In the end, Thursday's appearance by Richard Spencer was a success — as much as an unwelcome visit from a notorious white nationalist can be. The …

  2. Blake High grad Taylor Trensch lands lead role in 'Dear Evan Hansen' on Broadway

    Stage

    For those who saw Taylor Trensch grow up in Tampa, his rise from promising student to star is heartwarming and entirely predictable. In January, Trensch, 28, will be moving into the title role of Dear Evan Hansen on Broadway, one of the hottest tickets in theater.

    Taylor Trensch, a 2007 Blake High graduate, will play the title role in Broadway's Dear Evan Hansen. Courtesy of Frank Trensch.
  3. Editorial: When protest leads to understanding

    Editorials

    The protests against racial injustice by professional athletes across the country include examples of communities where it has not been handled well. And then there is the example set in Tampa Bay.

  4. Why it's too early to give up on the Bucs

    Bucs

    Don't panic. It's not too late for the Bucs.

    Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Jameis Winston (3) and wide receiver Mike Evans (13) celebrate after the defense recovered a fumble during the second half of an NFL game between the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Arizona Cardinals at University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, Ariz., on Sunday, Oct. 15, 2017. LOREN ELLIOTT   |   Times 

  5. Backlog of immigration cases under Trump stymies immigrants in Florida

    Courts

    It was supposed to be a routine green card renewal for a Thai woman who has called Central Florida home for years.

    Immigration lawyers such as Gerald P. Seipp of Clearwater worry that their clients' circumstances will change with long delays in their immigration court appeals, hurting their chances of staying in the country. [SCOTT KEELER   |   Times]