Demand for seniors' tech classes nets partnership with retailer

By Steve Smith - Staff Writer
Ellington - posted Fri., Dec. 7, 2012
Best Buy Sales Team Specialist Mark Ramos talks with senior citizens to learn what they wish to know more about. Photos by Steve Smith.
Best Buy Sales Team Specialist Mark Ramos talks with senior citizens to learn what they wish to know more about. Photos by Steve Smith.

Dozens of seniors visited with Mark Ramos – a sales team specialist from Best Buy in Manchester – at the Ellington Senior Center on Dec. 5. The event was a “meet-and-greet” where Ramos was taking input on what areas of technology the seniors wanted to learn about, in order to plan for a series of technology classes that will begin in January.

Senior Center Program Coordinator Samantha Baer said she had seen a need for the classes after she was working with one senior on a program book that she creates every year, literally cutting-and-pasting pieces from the previous program. Baer said she tried to explain how cutting and pasting things on a computer might make things easier, but the woman had trouble grasping that concept.

Baer reached out to Best Buy about any sort of tech program they might have to offer, and then, she said, “it kind of just sky-rocketed from there.” She met with Ramos and his manager, Jennifer, for a brainstorm session when it occurred to the store personnel that grants were available, and that they could do something similar to their Teach Out classes. “This is the first type of class on this large of a scale,” Baer said.

The seniors will be able to ask questions and learn about specifics of using computers, tablets, smart phones and digital cameras.

About a dozen had signed up for the introductory session, but more than 30 showed up, which indicates that the demand for tech knowledge may be even larger than Baer or Ramos had anticipated. “It obviously shows that there is a great need and a great interest out there,” Baer said. “A lot of them want to try to keep up with their kids and grandkids, and what they are doing. They want to be the cool grandparents.”

“If there are any other classes you would be interested in,” Ramos told the seniors, “we'll definitely try to work that out with you.”

Seniors asked questions about what to look for when shopping for smart phones, which tablets are better for therapeutic games, and loading photos from a digital cameras. Ramos said he's not particularly knowledgeable about digital cameras himself, but he would find another instructor for that class.

Many had issues dealing with maintenance of personal computers, including how to get rid of pop-up ads, how to use social networking and how to use programs like Photoshop. “I want to know everything,” one senior said.

Ramos said the Manchester store would be calling on other locations, including Enfield and West Hartford, to see if more staff can be sent to accommodate more classes for the Ellington seniors.

Baer said they will run twice per week, and the plan is to create them for seniors with varying ability levels. Seniors interested in taking the classes should contact Baer at sbaer@ellington-ct.gov or 860-870-3133.


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