Seniors Assign High Score to SCAN’s SAT

Forget Math and English. This ‘for seniors only’ SAT has two parts: Successful Aging and Technology. Although they did not grow up with digital devices, your grandparents’ SAT dispenses large doses of great health information, technology training and personalized hands-on coaching.

Every Thursday, Andrea Tarr, program director, and Frank Remski, volunteer, from theEatontown-based SCAN (Social Community Activities Network), greet an eager group gathered in Red Bank. Sixteen applicants were accepted for the 11-week course which includes a mix of residents from the host organization, United Methodist Communities at The Wesleyan, and others from various Monmouth County locations. While the seniors practice on loaned Android tablets or personally-owned devices, students who financially qualify will receive a tablet at graduation.

Tarr shares, “Consistent with SCAN’s tagline, Where Active Adults Meet to be Informed,Empowered, Inspired, we’re always concerned about mind, body, and health. SCAN was one of seven organizations chosen nationally to participate in a two-year pilot Digital Aging Mastery Program funded by the National Council on Aging and Verizon.”

This year marks the third SCAN is running SAT with a specific goal to give access to and educate low-income people age 60 and above to use technology and promote successful aging. The Wesleyan’s Social Service Coordinator, Mary Patichio, helped secure SAT for the Red Bank senior residence. The course is designed around ultimate brain fitness and incorporates the natural pairing of technology and health.

Tarr starts each class with announcements, introduces the health and wellness topic and distributes a giveaway, which lasts for about the first hour. Topics range from Pain Management and Preventing Falls to Better Breathing and Advance Planning. The giveaways always reinforce the successful aging information. For example, week four on Exercise featured a walking journal. In addition to class handouts, a three ring binder of reference material distributed during the first class, serves as a resource.

With a very interactive format, Tarr writes student responses on poster-sized paper mounted on an easel for viewing ease. When asked about ways to combat shortness of breath, Cheri of Atlantic Highlands shares how her recent return to singing in a local church choir aided the condition. Sandwiches, snacks and beverages lend themselves to short breaks, lots of conversation, sharing, problem solving, and a casual atmosphere.
Remski handles the technology portion of the class aided by a large wall-mounted screen at the front of the Community Room. He reviews browsers and browser structure, mobile data plans, tabs, starting pages, links, and connecting to Wi-Fi. Stressing online security, he cautions them not to conduct banking or other personal transactions in public places with open connections.

Beyond navigation, he explains cookies, secondary security and ad targeting, and shows the seniors how to view and delete their browsing histories. Visits to Wikipedia and Snopes reinforce the lesson. As Remski demonstrates on the screen, students follow on their devices.

Research reports 77% of seniors say they would need assistance learning to use any new form of technology. Cisco adds that the right support is needed to empower older adults by educating them about communication technology and its benefits. It also mentions that seniors could use these technologies to enhance their well-being.

SAT’s positive outcomes mirror that finding and touch nearly every facet of the seniors’ lives:

  • Gain digital skills
  • Navigate the Internet
  • Promote physical and cognitive health
  • Access service and product information
  • Make purchases
  • Reduce isolation and create community
  • Improve and expand social connections
  • Facilitate staying in touch with others
  • Access information to become healthier or maintain health

Addressing seniors’ need for assistance, six volunteer coaches not only stand at the ready, but also circulate around the room to fulfill the essential need for individual attention. Among them are three enthusiastic Monmouth University students, Yixiong Huang, Ellen Jin and Nianqi Tian, as well as Bill Fountain, Vincent Masi, and Rich DiPersio.

Huang, a resident of Eatontown and software engineering graduate student affirms, “I want to share what I know and to improve my communications skills. So far, as my first experience with seniors, it has been a good one.”

Fountain, a retiree and Farmingdale resident conveys, “I enjoy the program and used computers for years while in the workforce. We have a core group of people here willing to learn and determined to succeed.”

The staff, volunteers and students look forward to graduation on March 30.