|Orford Village Commons Computer Center Gives New Meaning to the Term “Graduating Seniors”|
Manchester, CT— Graduation. It often signifies the completion of one chapter and the beginning of another in life. For high school seniors, graduation may bring them one step closer to higher education or entry into the workforce. For college seniors, graduation may mark the start of a career. For others, such as the 12 senior residents who completed the computer literacy course at the Orford Village Commons Computer Center, graduation represents accomplishment and the opening of a new door.
A Very Special Graduation
On May 15, the Orford Village Commons Computer Center hosted a graduation for participants of its eight-week computer literacy course. This ceremony was unique, mainly because the graduates ranged in age from 75 to 90, and many had completed either high school or college half a century earlier and have been retired from the workforce for at least a decade. Nonetheless, for these graduates, this ceremony signaled a new beginning, a life of using their newly acquired computer skills to communicate and stay in touch with loved ones in the 21st century.
Lorraine Young (far right), center volunteer and computer instructor, poses with the 12 senior graduates of the Orford Village Commons Computer Center's computer literacy course.
Age No Barrier to Learning
To truly appreciate the importance of what this moment meant to the senior students and to understand how the senior residents reached this milestone, the story must begin with the vision of Eileen Doughty, center director for the Orford Village Commons Computer Center, and the commitment of Lorraine Young, center volunteer and computer instructor.
Doughty was inspired to offer the class after watching her 82 year-old mother Lee Grenier become proficient in using the computer, especially the Internet. Like the seniors at Orford Village Commons independent-living apartment community, Grenier was raised in an era far-removed from the technology-driven society in which we live. However, she had long-since realized something her contemporaries had not: learning is a lifelong process; technology is nothing to fear; and proficiency in computer use and the Internet are vital communication skills.
“I thought that if my mother can do this, so can the seniors at Orford Village Commons,” said Doughty. Doughty believed that if she helped the seniors overcome their fear of and reluctance to using computer technology, then, like her mother, they could learn how to use the Internet to search for information and explore the world. Most important for Doughty, the seniors would be able to use e-mail to connect and communicate more easily with their families.
“Many of the residents have ailments such as arthritis that make writing letters challenging,” explained Doughty. “Also, even when residents do write letters, their family members rarely write back. I knew that family members would respond more quickly to the senior residents’
e-mails, especially the grandchildren.”
Planning to Succeed
To offer the class, Doughty enlisted the help of her sister Lorraine Young. Together, Doughty and Young developed a curriculum to teach the seniors about the Internet and e-mail. Young, who earned a bachelor of arts degree in computer science and has more than 20 years of experience in computer programming, accepted the challenge and invested more than 60 hours preparing lessons. She created PowerPoint presentations, researched textbooks, and met with a computer technician to secure senior-friendly equipment and options such as large print key boards and easily visible desktop icons. Young’s hands-on curriculum proposed limiting participation to two seniors per one-hour class. To accommodate this arrangement and residents’ availability, Young scheduled several classes over a three-day period.
Once Young completed her preparation, Doughty distributed flyers to the residents promoting the class. At the first class, which was held in April 2009, Young spent almost an hour giving a general course overview and conducting class introductions. Young spent the next eight weeks immersing the seniors in computer technology. Her lessons included basic computer terminology, including terms such as hard drive, monitor, tower; computer hardware and software; logging on and off; powering the computer on and off; Windows; and the Internet.
Young wanted free exchange of information between students and teacher and taught at a pace that would not intimidate them. She used her PowerPoint presentation to explain each activity before having them try it, and she made learning fun by using visual aids. For example, she brought in a motherboard during the discussion on computer hardware.
When the class ended, Young and Doughty were touched and overwhelmed by the residents’ experiences and reactions. “There were a lot of happy tears shed during the class,” explained Young. “One resident, Jeanne Brown, was overjoyed at being able to access the Web page of her grandson’s wedding and to receive photos via e-mail of her brother’s 89th birthday in Maine, both of which she was unable to attend. Another resident was asked to identify one place on earth she’d like to visit. She said Jamaica, and I spent time with her searching out Web sites about Jamaica and giving her a virtual tour of the country. She really enjoyed this. It was so rewarding to be able to positively influence their lives this way. I just cannot say enough about it.”
Introducing the Class of 2009
To celebrate the seniors’ achievement and encourage them to continue learning new skills, Young planned a special graduation ceremony for the class of 2009. The all-female graduates of the Orford Village Commons Computer Center class of 2009 include Jeanne Brown, Mary Brown, Phyllis Cohen, Gail Emery, Rhoda Krinjack, Earnell Leslie, Luenna McBrairety, Alice Miller, Aurella Ouellette, Laurianne Ouellette, Helen Rannacher, and Anne Terhune.
Because the Orford Village Commons Computer Center graduation ceremony was the first graduation of any sort for four members of the class, Young focused on planning an authentic graduation ceremony, complete with Pomp and Circumstance (normally referred to as the “graduation song”), a graduation cap with tassel, a rose, and a framed certificate of achievement complete with an Orford Village Commons gold sticker for each student. Young also delivered a commencement address that included personalized messages for each graduate, and she purchased a cake for the post-graduation reception. “The residents were surprised and very touched,” noted Young. “They cried throughout the ceremony.”
Young was not the only one with a few surprises up her sleeve. Upon conclusion of the ceremony, the seniors had a little surprise of their own to present. They presented Young with an engraved plaque and dedicated the computer room to her. “Lorraine Young has touched many lives at Orford Village,” said one resident. “She introduced us to new horizons and made it possible for us to reach new goals.”
For more information about Neighborhood Networks centers in Connecticut, contact:
Suzanne C. Piacentini
U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development
Hartford Multifamily Program Center
One Corporate Center
20 Church Street, 19th Floor
Hartford, CT 06103-3220
For more information about the Orford Village Commons Computer Center, contact:
Orford Village Commons Computer Center
370 West Center Street
Manchester, CT 06040
|| Back to top
Department of Housing and Urban
451 7th Street S.W.,
Washington, DC 20410
708-1112 TTY: (202)