For the last two weeks, I’ve spent my Tuesday evenings at Wake Robin, a retirement community in Shelburne, VT(not far from Burlington proper). I immediately said yes to helping the residents in the Geek Lab classes who needed extra one on one time that Jeff couldn’t give. I was given two “students”, Mary Jane and Don, who wanted more help with podcasting, and they were hungry, so to speak.

Very hungry.

My classmates and I got to eat dinner at Wake Robin(not bad at all, actually), and then got to work. Mary Jane and Don both had PC computers, but Mary Jane’s wasn’t a laptop, so we would work with my Macbook and Don’s Dell laptop. She had questions about what is a podcast, how to do it, but we had to start from the very beginning.

They both knew of iTunes, but needed AppleIDs. So, checked that off the list-they now can download iTunes, subscribe to podcasts(after a tutorial of how to find them), and browse for books(yet they need a ebook reader). Don was very hesitant to give his credit card information and so was Mary Jane–interesting to once again see the age factor play here. I have no fear, yet they do. So do my parents. 

We veered off topic, and they asked about Pandora, and Mary Jane wanted to learn how to record her own voice. The second week Mary Jane couldn’t attend, but Don and I got him signed up for Pandora and we made a few stations for him: Benny Goodman, Frank Sinatra, a classical station, and Nat King Cole. He’ll being jammin’ in his home in no time! He was pretty pleased. Don also got to learn about Skype, and he and I practiced so that he can talk to his granddaughters. Success.

Twitter was not in the cards for him-we tried about four times to get him signed up, but either Wake Robin’s internet connection was slammed with users, or Twitter was having problems at that point. He wanted to know what is a tweet, and just what Twitter is used for in life. He decided not for him, but maybe Facebook? So now, Don, at 83 years of age, is a Facebooker, a Skype user, a Pandora listener, and an iTunes podcast fan. 

It was great to meet them, and I had a small emotional moment in the bathroom. I think this week was in general hard for me(boss from Memphis lost his dad this week whom I knew pretty well, homework is taking a toll, my 29th birthday is next Friday, I think I’m getting sick and I’m just tired) and I couldn’t help think of my own grandparents. I only have one grandmother left after my paternal grandmother died a week before I left Memphis to move here. My maternal grandfather was heavily into computers when he was alive, and was a data processor for the city of Memphis. He died in 1990 at the young age of 72. I can’t help think that I am carrying on a part of him with my laptop tech job, and this degree program.

As I sat with Don, we had a lull while Skype was connecting, and he asked when I taught computer in Memphis if I had my students learn typing. I told him I did and they learned speed drills, correct hand placement, and I had them even hide their hands under a piece of paper to learn coordination and memory. He shared that in WWII he was in the Army Services as a morse code translator and had to learn to type while listening to the code. It was like I was sitting with my grandfather telling his own army stories. 

As I talk with first year MFA students, I can’t help but wonder if this could be a career-helping “older folks” learn technology, or just help/consult those who need advice or instructional help, or a possible thesis? 

Mary Jane and Don have left a great impact on me, and I hope I have with them. They just want to be heard, to not be forgotten, and to keep up with the rest of the world.


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