A Brief History of Computer Learning at Cary Senior Center

Our Emergence Under SeniorNet Learning Center

When Cary opened its new Senior Center in Bond Park in late 1999 the Center Management saw the need to provide a place where seniors whose work experience had not included the personal computer could come for instruction in how to use this new media. A call was placed to an experienced instructional program called SeniorNet, then headquartered in California, to provide startup counseling.

A call for volunteers for instructing, coaching, and support work resulted in about 20 volunteers who began work on getting prepared. Equipment was provided by the Town of Cary and installed in the Media Room. SeniorNet regional representatives provided Student Manuals and instructional tips for the volunteers.

We started as one of 360 SeniorNet Learning Centers, mostly in the United States and Canada, using their documentation and training programs, all based on early versions of the Microsoft Windows systems. In March of 2000 eight students heard their first lesson, Computer Basics. A series of lessons rounded out the first semester.

Our Independence, Logo, and the Challenges of Keeping Up-to-Date

We absorbed the many Microsoft changes moving from Windows XP to the current version of Windows 10. We added key computer applications MS/Office, Libre Office (the free alternative to MS/Office), Google Apps (GMail & others), Android phones & tablets, Digital Photography, Social Applications (Facebook & others).

The first handheld smartphone (iPhone) appeared in 2007 and the first tablet (iPad) in 2010. We started our own first classes on iPhone and iPad in 2011. To satisfy demands of students and volunteers, we added Apple products training to include Macs, Cloud Computing (iCloud) and recently watches (iWatch). These classes drew large registration numbers.

With our development, the changes in SeniorNet, and the growth in new technologies, we formed Cary Senior Technology Education (CSTE) in April 2016 as a 501(c) (3) organization with the guidance of the Town of Cary and Cary Senior Center. CSTE is managed by its Board of Directors.

Our logo was prepared by Jerry Miller, the well-known Cary artist.

Cary Senior Tech Ed logo

We have tried to keep up with emerging technology that is popular with seniors, developing seminars such as: Buying a Computer, Smartphone or Tablet, Cutting TV Cable Costs, Home Surveillance and Road Tripping. We continue to look at technology changes that are useful for our seniors and develop courses that are targeted to the senior citizens of our community.

Ongoing Efforts

Since the program started it has expanded to include 52 different offerings prepared by a staff of over 40 volunteers, taught to as many as 950 students per year, and covering a wide variety of computing and technology subjects.

We now develop our own courseware, prepare our own documentation, train our own instructors (all senior volunteers) and produce the courses and seminars that are of significant value to our senior community and provide and enjoy interesting and productive activity for our volunteers. We have two classrooms: a Lab supporting 12 students with computer desktops, and a Classroom supporting 30 students for seminars and workshops.

We have been enriched by volunteers who may not have been IT professionals but were experienced computer users and could easily explain technology to new users. These have been from many professional backgrounds. We have teachers, engineers, scientists and retired executives as well as computer professionals and others. We continuously welcome volunteers from all professions who would like to get involved. Contact us if you are interested.

All Thanks to Cary Senior Center and the Town of Cary

We are very thankful to the Cary Senior Center and the Town of Cary for all of their support. They continue to help as they have for the past 20 years in providing excellent state-of-the-art facilities, equipment (hardware and software) and other support to help us build a successful program.