In the beginning, there was the promise of “new beginnings” for seniors and technology. There would be connectivity. There would be access. But where was the education?
In 2014, the Seattle Mayor’s Office for Senior Citizens decided to rethink computer training for seniors and focus on the needs of its most vulnerable clients—older Seattle residents facing prolonged joblessness, homelessness and, frequently, hopelessness.
Last year, the Mayor’s Office for Senior Citizens team reorganized to more directly meet the survival needs of our clients and remove or reduce as many barriers to independence and sustainability as possible. Our Seniors Training Seniors program had previously focused on personal growth and enrichment classes. Job readiness and self-sufficiency are our new emphasis. This emphasis includes regular classes and workshops in resume writing, interviewing skills, professional networking via LinkedIn, the complete Microsoft Office Suite, and frequent classes in computer basics.
Mature job seekers who find themselves entering the workforce for the first time—or re-entering it after a long time—can now be assured that they will have a knowledgeable, experienced job counselor to help navigate the complexities of resume writing, job-searching, and interviewing. They can count on having the confidential ear and compassionate heart of a seasoned social work professional to provide information and referrals for housing, healthcare, transportation, and other necessities for living. And, with the Seniors Training Seniors program, they have access to hundreds of free computer training classes annually, with unlimited access to the kiosk computers in the Mayor’s Office for Senior Citizens office for their job search needs.
Seniors Training Seniors continues to be taught by a team of professional and experienced volunteers who are wholly engaged and passionate about sharing their expertise with each group of eager learners. From Computer Basics to Advanced Excel, these volunteer instructors regularly and willingly give their time and talent to accomplish the vision of the Mayor’s Office for Senior Citizens.
Innovation in training was achieved this summer when Seniors Training Seniors, in collaboration with the YMCA of Greater Seattle’s Y-Tech Program, conducted a pilot program of intergenerational training with two teens representing the City of Seattle’s Summer Youth Employment Program and Horn of Africa Services. High school teens underwent extensive training and taught Computer Basics classes to Mayor’s Office for Senior Citizens clients for six weeks. The experience was well received by both groups.
Continuing connections to Seattle’s senior centers will allow older adults the opportunity to pursue non job-related computer skills. There will still be a place for technology for fun and enjoyment! Community outreach will include adding populations of underserved and overlooked seniors at the far margins of the mainstream spotlight. New Seniors Training Seniors classes planned for the fall include smartphone/tablet workshops, MS Outlook, and Skype.
While we are always on the lookout for new resources to accomplish our goals, repositioning from a position of strength allowed the Mayor’s Office for Senior Citizens to integrate its 55+ Employment Resource Center and the Seniors Training Seniors program. We remain fully committed to providing the programs and referrals to Seattle’s older population that will influence and empower each individual to strive for healthy living, healthy aging, and sustainable independence. Our Seniors Training Seniors program will continue to help bridge the gap between connectivity, access, and education.
If you have questions about employment counseling, social service referrals, computer training, or volunteering opportunities for older adults, visit www.seattle.gov/seniors or contact the Mayor’s Office for Senior Citizens 206-684-0500 or email@example.com.
Contributor Lynda Hunter has coordinated volunteer programs for the Seattle Mayor’s Office for Senior Citizens since 2014. She is an accomplished writer, editor, poet, and personal coach.