Thursday, Oct. 11, 2012 | 2 a.m.
A group of residents at a Las Vegas senior living center made a foray into uncharted territory Wednesday morning, exploring a place few of them had ever been before: the Internet.
Provided with touch-screen smartphones to use, the group of seniors at Atria Sutton learned basics of the devices to make calls, browse the Internet and take pictures.
The workshops are being sponsored around the country by AT&T to help seniors get online and get connected.
Philip Jordan, an executive producer with Senior TechRally, which is running the workshops, said the program is meant to show people the power of the Internet and help seniors deal with some of the initial confusion new technology can cause.
“Our goal is to get them to realize how intuitive these devices are,” Jordan said. “We want them to get comfortable pushing buttons and get over some of the fears of technology they may have.”
Jordan said the workshops helped about 2,500 people in 2011 and were on track to educate another 10,000 this year.
The program covers everything from sending text messages to making video calls.
Only one of the seniors at Atria Sutton said they owned a cellphone; most said they’d never been on Google or sent an email.
Jordan said each program was catered to the skill level of the audience, and Wednesday’s session focused mostly on Internet basics.
“It’s about information and connections. The Internet has health information, wellness information, library information, community programming information,” Jordan said. “We can teach these people to use the Internet to educate themselves and challenge themselves.”
Jesus Barraza, AT&T area retail sales manager, said retail stores throughout the country were seeing increased interest from seniors in buying and using smartphones.
Touch screens and advances in software have made using a phone easier, more intuitive and less daunting for those who are uncomfortable with technology. With email and text messaging as common ways to stay in touch, people who don’t know how to use the technology may find themselves left out, Barraza said.
“(Seniors) are realizing that this is the main source of communication with their grandkids and kids,” he said.