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Research on elderly computing needs

Noelle met with Naomi Bloch, a GLIS student who did an independent study on the elderly and Internet use; Penny Porter, librarian at Clark Lindsey Village; and conducted an email interview of Urbana Free Library’s Mary Towner (Librarian).

Noelle reported that her subjects said similar things:

-Elderly use computers mostly for email, occasionally scanning photos, making fliers, and online dating

-All interviewees said we should know our elderly population and what they liked to do b/c you can find ways to use technology to help them do what they like.

-Security is a huge issue as the elderly like to click on everything and don’t know the difference between something legitimate and something that’s a scam.

-We should think about programs that empower the elderly or programs that help them to be creators of content, such as setting Internet game matches, working with youth to develop a website about local history, teaching elderly how to contribute to a newspaper website.

-Some elderly come to the lab in a time of need like when they need information on how to do taxes online.

-Basic courses or lab help is essential and helpers need to be patient and kind above all else.

Ashley went to St. Mary’s Home, a nursing home and assisted living apartment complex, run by the Little Sisters of the Poor; it is located on 2325 N. Lakewood Avenue in Chicago, Illinois.  St. Mary’s Home relies heavily on volunteers and donations and has successfully maintained an operational computer lab/library on the second floor. Like many underfunded, or non-profit organizations, St. Mary’s has a tradition of “begging”.  According to the website:

Begging for contributions has been a tradition since Saint Jeanne Jugan founded the Little Sisters of the Poor in 1839, and collecting continues to be at the heart of our mission today. Like Saint Jeanne Jugan, we believe that if we are faithful to our mission of caring for the poor, God will provide. Our benefactors are the instruments through which this is possible and we remember them everyday in our prayers.

The Home is highly successful in collecting donations and finding volunteers; this is something that the Park District can replicate. The Park District can also duplicate aspects of the computer lab/library.  The library contained books that would suit any of the 78 residents’ tastes.  It included books for the following categories:

  • Art-Music-Photography
  • World history
  • Literature-Poems-Music
  • Reference
    • History of Chicago
    • Encyclopedias
    • Dictionaries
    • Bibles
  • Magazine Racks
  • Large Print Books
  • Religion
  • Mystery

Sister Michaels, a nun at St. Mary’s Home, stated that residents use the computers primarily for recreational purposes.  Both men and women enjoy games to keep their minds sharp: crossword puzzles, sports, etc.  Sister Michaels also said that they love to retrieve jokes and recipes from the Internet.

St. Mary's Home web site