Southern Union Helps Seniors Through Digital World

Selena Daniel in class at Southern Union State Community College. PHOTO BY ROBERT NOLES / THE OBSERVER




Southern Union State Community College (SUSCC) is holding free digital literacy courses for seniors in the community this semester.

“It’s an online computer class that basically gets people familiar with computers,” said SUSCC Director of Education Connor Chauveaux.

Using a program called Northstar Digital Literacy, the goal of the course is to enhance seniors’ essential computer and software skills, and increase their use of technology in daily life.

“It’s an overall computer class to get familiar with the computer, and then, obviously, if one of them was like ‘Oh I really need to know how to do a slide deck’ or ‘I need to know how to use Google Classroom,’ we will build that in,” Chauveaux said. “They complete all the modules in Northstar, and then if there are other things they need to know, we can certainly help them with that.”

Throughout the course, the seniors will earn Northstar Digital Literacy Certificates by completing 14 modules in: basic computer skills, internet basics, using email, Windows, Mac, Microsoft Word, Excel and PowerPoint, Google Docs, social media, information literacy, career search skills, supporting K-12 distance-learning and how to increase their digital footprint.

“We offer standalone classes where anybody in the community can come, so we have an 85-year-old, two 75-year-olds and a 90-year-old gentleman in our computer class,” said SUSCC Career Pathways Coordinator June Abercrombie. “They are amazing.”

This semester’s four participants, who meet every Monday and Wednesday from 9 to 11 a.m., have their own particular reasons for taking the course, however.

Selena Daniel, a locally based 85-year-old real estate broker, is partly taking the class to further advance her business.

“I would like to be able to do some presentations, so I’m trying to do that,” she said. “I got tired of calling my grandchildren to ask ‘How do you do this?’ So I said, ‘Well, I’m going back to school and learn how to do it myself.’”

Ninety-year-old Jerry Hunt said one of his main reasons for taking the course was to learn Microsoft Word in order to post daily devotionals to Facebook.

“I call it Bible commentary for the simple person,” he said. “That’s what I do mainly, plus I use Word to write a lot of articles on certain items that I’ll take, have printed … So I mostly use email; I don’t really know how, so that’s why I’m here — to better learn how to use it.”

Lastly, the married couple of 74 and 75 years of age, James and Mona Waldrep, are taking the course mainly to acclimate to new technology in order to stay in contact with their grandchildren, and for safety reasons.

“Well, we had to update our phones in July, and things had just changed so much, and we got to talking about it to see if we could find some adult classes, and we found this, so we’re trying to stay up to speed,” they said.

“Our grandchildren live in Birmingham; we don’t have any young people around us. We live out in the country.”

Teaching the class is Arlene Godwin, an instructor with 21 years of teaching experience under her belt. She said the class is filling a need in the community.

“Many seniors feel disconnected from the technology advances,” she said. “They feel like they are happening just around them. Because they are retired, they’re not really in the workplace and they’re not learning these new skills. And oftentimes their children and grandchildren don’t live in the same place that they do, so they’re not having regular contact with the young folks that are kind of on top of these things. I think that this class is just meeting that need for them in terms of them being able to enhance their computer skills and not fear technology as much.”

With the course going successfully this semester, Southern Union is already making plans to reach more seniors. Chauveaux said the school is trying to expand the class because seniors outside of the immediate, local community could also use this resource.

“Right now, it’s just this one class, but we are expanding,” she said. “We are looking to form a partnership with Lanett Parks and Recreation for their senior citizens over there, and we’ve been talking to Valley Public Library about doing one, and then we will obviously offer another senior citizen class over here after this one is done.”

To learn more about the course, or to register, call Abercrombie at 334-701-2724, or email


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