April 23, 2021

Cayman Islands: Over 60s tap into wider world with free IT classes

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The Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) has set up a second basic computer skills class to help Cayman Brac’s older persons gain more independence and stave off loneliness.

The most recent class started last Wednesday and has three participants. Like the first classes, which started last year, it also has three enrolees. The free, hour-long sessions will be held once a week at the Cayman Brac Library.

Taught by social worker Bouvia Fergurson, course content includes training in keyboard skills, an introduction to the internet, how to set up email accounts, how to send and receive emails, basic social networking, Microsoft Word, Excel and Powerpoint.

Ethlyn Barnes, and husband and wife Selvin and Andrea Brooks, signed up for the earliest classes last July. “We heard about the DCFS starting an introductory computer course at one of our senior citizens’ socials,” said Mr. Brooks. “The classes are very interesting and have opened up a whole new world for me and my wife. We have friends and family overseas and enjoy keeping in touch with them using email, so I will definitely recommend the course to other seniors.”

The course now runs twice a week with the newest participants attending each Wednesday.

Both classes were made possible by the donation of two computers by the National Council of Voluntary Organisations (NCVO), which were refurbished by Simply Computers. Other free assistance was provided by Trevor Blake, who packed the computers for shipping them to Cayman Brac, and by Patricia Bolton and her son Chevaugh Le’Vel, who transported them.

Ms Ferguson works in the department’s Stake Bay offices and hopes that the programme can eventually be rolled out for older people in Grand Cayman and Little Cayman.

“We would like to enrol more people but are currently limited by the number of computers we have,” she explained. DCFS is hopeful for more computers; as well as a more permanent location.

Tailored to suit the needs of the elderly, enrolees get plenty of opportunities to ask questions and to go over what they have learnt until they are proficient. The class instructor says that small class sizes will ensure that all students get one-on-one attention.

“Since there are only two computers at the library, Mr. Brooks has to bring his laptop to class,” said Ms Ferguson. “We hope that as more businesses hear of the classes, then one or two will step forward and make similar donations of surplus computers, which are in good condition, in order to establish a computer centre for older persons.”

The classes were suggested by Ms Ferguson to her supervisor Kerry Parchman and sanctioned by DCFS Director Felicia Robinson and Community Development Officer, Elsa Scott.

“I appreciate that as first-time users they need to be coaxed out of the fear that some may have that they will somehow damage the computer if they press the wrong key or key in too heavily,” said Ms Ferguson. Having grasped many of the fundamentals, the trainer is encouraged by her clients’ enthusiasm to learn more.

“DCFS knows, that senior citizens can be extremely lonely and that gaining a working knowledge of basic computer skills will expand their horizons far beyond the home,” said Mrs. Robinson. “This initiative is a practical way to help our clients learn about the wonders of technology in a supportive environment. Judging by how passionate our current enrolees are about the programme, we would welcome more computer donations from local businesses.”

When more computers are available, DCFS’s goal is to build an extension on the DCFS building on Cayman Brac to provide a permanent space where the classes can be held. In the interim, the donated computers will be set-up temporarily at the Kirkconnell Community Day Care Centre once enough shelving is sourced to accommodate slightly larger classes.

To learn more about the basic computer course, and how to donate computers for the programme, contact Ms Ferguson on 244-7306.

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