Spreading the wealth of information

Published 8:18 pm Saturday, September 4, 2010

The Internet is a powerful tool, the capabilities of which I take for granted.

As a 23-year-old, I can’t remember a time when I didn’t know how to operate a computer.

I learned how to build my own web page when I was 13. Now, whenever I need a recipe, I don’t think twice about looking it up online.

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I found my current job using the Internet, and when my now-husband and I were going through pre-marriage counseling with our pastor, the three of us were in three different locations. I was in northern Virginia, my then-fiancé was in Virginia Beach and our pastor was in California. We used video cams to meet with each other each week.

When I’m sick, I Google my symptoms to see if it could be serious, and I can even access my children’s ministry curriculum on-line when I’m putting together my lesson for Sunday.

It never occurred to me though, that with as fast as computers developed, there are some who have been left behind. They’re some of the people who, perhaps, could benefit the most from them.

To help, Sentara hosts a free, one hour, one-on-one computer literacy class for senior citizens to help them learn different programs and basic or specific Internet skills.

The program is aimed at teaching people what they want to know — whether it’s how to use a computer to stay in touch with family or how to research something specific.

The program has already helped more than 100 people, including a man who needed to learn Excel for his job.

It has also taught others that email is free and how to set up an account so they could receive photos of their grandchildren, who live states away.

It taught one participant how to research her ancestry, and she realized that there is a capability that could help her aunt and uncles, who haven’t seen each other in 50 years and are unable to travel.

I talk to my California grandparents through Facebook on a monthly basis.

It’s hard to imagine a world where I couldn’t see my loved ones.

It’s heartbreaking to know that this technology exists, and there are still people in the community who have not been able to take advantage of its most basic functions because of lack of opportunity or fear of the unknown.

I understand and respect those who don’t want to use it, but for those who do and just don’t know where to start, I think Sentara is helping meet a need in our community.

I hope there are more programs like it in the community and that people will take the time to show their loved ones how to use the technology to their benefit.

Computers and the Internet are used for ill purposes enough of the time. Let’s maximize on the good they can help facilitate.