One of the great surprises of the many new programs introduced at Tonari Gumi this past year has been the popularity of the tablet computer classes. Thinking that a few seniors might find it fun to learn how to use a tablet computer, we started our first class during our April to June term, drawing on the computer skills of a young volunteer, Izumi Tagawa. Drawing on some of the financial donations made to Tonari Gumi, we purchased four tablet computers (the cheaper models using the Android technology) so that the seniors could actually try the tablets without having to purchase their own. To our delight all of the first two classes were immediately over subscribed and we had to add a third class. The same has been true of our September to December term where we went to four different workshops, but still many seniors were calling immediately as registrations opened to secure space in our classes. The average ages of our seniors were in their late 70’s into their late 80’s.
What we discovered is that tablet computers are very much suited for our first generation Japanese-Canadian seniors. First, tablets do not require any typing skills. Second, the use of pictoral applications (apps) makes it easy for seniors to access their favourite applications directly by just touching the pictures. Third, many of the tablet computers make it very easy to convert the screen to various languages and our seniors are able to input e-mail messages and other commands directly in Japanese. Although you can spend any amount of money that you wish on various tablet models, some of the cheaper models (both Android and Apple types) are more than adequate to e-mail and play games.
The popularity of the tablet computers has also led to greater social interchange and the reduction of social isolation within the community. More of our seniors are e-mailing each other and also contacting their family members throughout Canada and abroad. We’ve overheard several of our seniors say that they are Skyping their family in Japan. The other interesting development has been how our seniors have wanted to share their tablet experiences with each other. Lately we’ve seen the development of an informal tablet club where our seniors gather together to share their latest “finds” in terms of new apps and then teach each other how to use these apps. Just like our kids, our seniors like the games the best. Tablet computers are catching on among our seniors much quicker than pc’s did in the past. Moreover, the tablets are bringing our community closer together and creating new forums of communication. Who would have thought it!
Tonari Gumi’s next program guide will be coming out in November. Look for it, so you don’t miss out on our next batch of tablet computer classes, as well as a host of other new and exciting classes and workshops to challenge and excite your mind.