BDN — Bangor computer program helps seniors surf the web safely and stay connected

HAMPDEN, MAINE — Ruth Frost, 64, of Hampden worked for 30 years in the family business and used a computer for billing and bookkeeping. To make herself more comfortable with setting up and using her new home laptop for Facebook and other websites she signed up for a digital literacy class at Eastern Area Agency on Aging.
Gabor Degre | BDN

Posted June 23, 2017, at 6:25 a.m.
Ruth Frost spent 30 years working in the family business, handling inventory, payroll and other office functions for Frost’s Garage, her husband’s automotive repair shop in Hampden. For many of those years, she used a desktop computer fitted with the specific programs she needed to do her job.

“I did what I was trained to do, but I never used the computer for home,” she said. “I don’t know how to do what a lot of people do.”

Now 64 and retired, she’d like to set up a Facebook account so she can stay in touch with her children, grandchildren and other family members. She wants to use her new Lenovo laptop to download photos from her camera and organize them by year and topic. And she knows access to the Internet can make it easier and more convenient to search for businesses, services and other information — a big attraction, especially since her elderly mother recently moved in with her and the transition is claiming a lot of her time and energy.

Frost purchased her laptop recently at the Best Buy in Bangor, which sent its Geek Squad service team over to help her set it up. Her husband, Buzz, who is also retired, doesn’t have a lot of interest in the computer situation, but they have adult children in the area who would gladly help troubleshoot problems going forward.

“But I’d like to be able to do this on my own, without bothering the kids,” Frost said.

So she was glad to learn about a new service being offered at Eastern Area Agency on Aging in nearby Bangor. Beginning in August, EAAA will be offering free, 6-week classes in digital literacy, aimed at bringing seniors up to speed with basic computer skills.

“It’s a huge need,” said Tom Boyd, who handles the agency’s information technology needs. “Especially in our area, there are lots of people who have no idea how to use technology.” Boyd said the agency receives many calls from older adults asking about training, beginning with basics such as turning on a computer and how to use the mouse.

In addition to using tools like email and social media like Facebook for staying in touch with friends and loved ones, Boyd said seniors increasingly benefit from having computer skills for conducting the business of their daily lives, from signing up for Medicare, Social Security and assistance programs to accessing medical records, paying bills and scheduling appointments.

“Everything is going digital now,” he said, and older adults need to be comfortable using online technology without being vulnerable to scams, viruses and other dangers.

EAAA, located on Essex Street in Bangor, was prepared to provide classroom space and an instructor for digital literacy classes, Boyd said, but didn’t have computers for people to learn on.