Chris Meade and Marlene Scarcelli say the free computer classes offered by the Revelstoke Senior Citizens’ Association has opened up their lives to new experiences and possibilities.

Chris Meade and Marlene Scarcelli say the free computer classes offered by the Revelstoke Senior Citizens’ Association has opened up their lives to new experiences and possibilities.

Keeping in touch and keeping tabs

Revelstoke seniors share their success with award-winning computer tutorial program

Back in the day, parents relied on a network of watchful eyes to make sure their children weren’t misbehaving while out and about in the community. A discrete phone call would notify of any transgressions.

In the social networking age, Facebook has somewhat supplanted that role, serving as an early warning system for parents and grandparents. For (relatively) new computer users Chris Meade and Marlene Scarcelli, keeping in touch with their kids, grandkids, friends and family was a big reason they decided to learn more about Facebook, computers and the Internet.

“I check up on my grandkids,” says Meade.

“That’s why we got it,” jokes Scarcelli.

Like everyone else, they follow their progress, milestones and accomplishments — the baby pictures, the vacation videos and social events. And like everyone else, they get a window into other sides of their friends’ lives — the party photos, the bad spelling and lots of things they personally wouldn’t dream of sharing with others.

“They do not learn how to spell, and grammar is gone,” notes Meade of the Internet generation. “What gets me is the abbreviations” — brb, lol, imo — and such. But like real life, online life is changing and they like to keep abreast of it.

I sat down to talk with Meade and Scarcelli at the Revelstoke Senior Citizens’ Association hall to talk about the volunteer computer training classes run by the organization. The program has just been awarded a CBAL Community Literacy Award and I was there to find out the difference it had made in their lives.

They both used computers during their careers. Meade at the post office and Scarcelli at the cable company. But that was different, they say. They used really specific programs and felt out of the Internet loop after they retired.

They’d see or read stories about the latest and the greatest things happening online and feel left out. “What are they talking about?” Scarcelli wondered. For Meade, who still had teenagers in the house, it wasn’t as bad. But seeing her kids interact online, she knew she’d have to take the plunge and get with the times.

Meade started two years ago and has learned fast. She was helping put together a slideshow for the Revelstoke Homecoming and signed up for a PowerPoint class. She now teaches that class, which is a program most commonly used for giving presentations at meetings.

The program at the Revelstoke Senior Citizens’ Association offers lots of classes: computer basics, Facebook, Skype (for making free long-distance calls), spreadsheet program Excel, email and more. They also have one-offs, like online security classes from the RCMP.

Since their involvement with the program over the past two yeas, they’re now both active Internet users and have their own computers at home. Computers aren’t just about computers anymore; they’re an essential tool in life. In addition to socializing, they find last-minute recipes, answers to all kinds of questions and are a portal into what’s going on.

The cost of the classes? They’re all free, but you must have a $10 annual membership with the seniors association. That also gets you access to the computer lab, where you can check you email or your Facebook page on your own time.

Meade says the small group classes are friendly, easygoing and non-threatening. If you’re curious about computing, but are shy or nervous about getting started, these are the ones for you. “We learn from each other,” she says. “You can be as nervous as you want to be. I started out nervous.”

Scarcelli agrees. “They’re not hard,” she says. “You have to have an open mind.”

If you’re worried about screwing up and making a mistake, don’t: “There’s the undo button,” Meade says. “Sometimes you wish life had an undo button.”

To learn more about the classes, or volunteer to teach one, contact seniors’ association volunteer coordinator Jean Pedersen at 250-837-9456.