It's Never Too Late

In January I wrote about the Follow Me Home Initiative that involved teaching senior citizens how to use computers. That's a topic I know something about. For several years I was president of the computer club at our local senior center, and I helped launch the club’s popular class offerings and taught several classes. Most of my computer mentoring time lately has been spent with lifestory writers, and it’s thrilling to see how successful some are at turning to computers for telling their stories at ages many would not think possible. Several deserve special mention.

One is Paul Ohrman. Two and a half years ago, Paul signed up for a lifestory writing workshop I led at the Monroeville Public Library. He made a commitment to have the story of his first 85 years written by his 85th birthday, twenty-two months later. Paul had never used a computer, but after his wife showed him how to turn it on, within two weeks he had mastered margin changing, centering, changing the font, and all sorts of wonderful things many people never venture to try. Nobody taught him. He just clicked around and tried things to see how they worked.

Paul met his deadline, though it took another couple of months to finish the layout so he could order copies of his book for family Christmas presents. You can see the finished product, and even download it as a free eBook at It's definitely worth a look. By the way, Paul got hooked on life story writing. His second book, about his World War II experiences as an Army photographer in the war zone, is well under way.

Grandma Julia is another amazing example. She lives in the Philippines and left a comment on the blog about Spelling, which has attracted attention from around the globe. She is ninety years old, and just took up blogging. She writes eloquently, with great passion, in English, her second language. I urge you to pay her blog a visit. Her tales are timeless, and heart-warming.

Aunt Ruth is another success tale. She had been using her local library for e-mail for several years before she decided, at age 89, to buy her own computer. Uncle Walter’s health was failing and it was becoming increasingly difficult to find time to spend at the library. We found a good buy on a laptop, perfect for her tiny apartment, and placed the order. A friend helped her set it up. She quickly discovered that she can have a virtual afternoon in Paris on a whim, listen to opera, and have all sorts of adventures that had become difficult in person.

Last, but certainly not least, is my father. A couple of weeks ago I wrote that he has more cool tech toys than I do. He spends a good part of his time taking digital photos, some of them digital stereo. He’s not at the top of this list, because he's been using computers longer than the others. He became an Atari addict when he found one at a garage sale soon after he retired twenty some years ago. Today he is taking increased personal responsibility for keeping his own system tuned up, because My Brother, the Computer Guru is very busy. So, even though my father has been using computers for a couple of decades, his interest in staying on the cutting edge, and continuing to learn new things, is a great example.

It’s never too late to learn something new — unless you think it is — and learning new things keeps your brain healthy and growing. Writing is one of the best brain exercises, and learning new things about your computer while you create a written legacy of your life is icing on the cake.

Write now: about your experience learning to use computers, whatever your age when you began. Write about how you keep learning. How do you feel about learning new things, and about technology?


Pat's Place said...

I had an 80-year-old woman in my writing group whose handwriting had become illegible, so she learned to use a computer so she could type her stories before class. I would e-mail her the prompt beforehand and she would type the story. By the time she died five years later, she had quite a nice notebook of stories for her children. My theory is that it is never too late to learn new skills!

Anonymous said...

I admire your respect and encouragement of getting seniors connected. Another company that is doing just that is actually called It's Never 2 Late
they provide adaptive computer systems to connect seniors to technology - regardless of physical or cognitive ability.