ULLIN, IL. – As people age, they often cope with feelings of loss, inadequacy, and disengagement from their community. The Shawnee Community College Continuing Education Center is working to help them reengage with friends, family, and the world around them through The ElderReach Program.
ElderReach is designed to provide elderly citizens with lifelong learning opportunities that encourage social engagement, personal connection, and intellectual stimulation, regardless of their age. Research suggests older adults who continue learning new activities are less likely to develop cognitive decline. Additionally, lifelong learning helps them maintain healthy emotional well-being and positive self-image and overcome the sense of social isolation many feel as they age.
Shawnee Community College Dean of Workforce Innovation Dr. Gregory Mason says, “The ElderReach seminars and workshops are a game-changer for our aging population. These non-credit courses vary in topic, length of session, and requirements for participation; however, we offer something for everyone to enjoy.” Mason says the courses may be formal or informal and can be offered in a traditional classroom setting, group gathering, or by remote learning. “Whether in arts and culture, computer science, economics, health, or whatever field the senior is interested in, ElderReach helps seniors to explore their different interests, interact amongst themselves and with others, boost their self-esteem, and participate in learning; that is both enlightening and fun.”
The new program has been providing learning opportunities for only a few weeks, but already there has been significant interest. The college has partnered with the Egyptian Area Agency on Aging to offer a ‘Tech for Seniors’ computer/tablet navigation course for seniors at the West Vienna Senior Center, in West Vienna, Illinois, along with other senior centers throughout the region. The workshops teach basic computer skills, including conducting Zoom meetings for seniors who want to connect via video conferencing with family members who may live too far to visit frequently.
A recent survey from AARP found that older adults boosted technology purchases during the pandemic. Still, more than half indicated they needed a better grasp on using the devices they had acquired. Dr. Mason says his team hopes to change that. “Our classes are taught in 4-week sessions and explain the value of digital technology in the lives of older adults while helping them overcome obstacles to using digital technology. The program provides opportunities to actively learn through “hands-on” engagement via a tablet or PC. It includes training for email, video conferencing, and a host of senior-friendly applications.”
For information about ElderReach for older adults in your area, contact the Shawnee Community College Continuing Education Center at 618.634.3364 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.