Tech classes help seniors

Computers are in almost every classroom and many kids are comfortable on one before they know how to read, but that wasn't always the case.

Huntington Beach senior Rich Kolander didn't grow up knowing how to send an e-mail, "poke" his friends on Facebook or create an Excel spreadsheet because his generation "wasn't born with the computer next to their crib," he said.

"We grew up listening to the radio," he said.

Kolander learned to use computers through his job as an engineer, but many seniors have never learned those skills, and it is for them that the Michael E. Rodgers Senior Center offers several classes on a variety of computer skills.

The center has classes starting with the basics, which promise to teach users everything from turning a computer on and off and using a mouse to surfing the Web. It also has more specialized classes on eBay, photo organization, Google and Microsoft Word and Excel.

The computer program was created by volunteers who run the classes and maintain the computer lab, said Chris Cole, the senior center's recreation coordinator. The lab is funded by the Huntington Beach Council on Aging, Cole said.

Hundreds of seniors have taken the classes, which are popular, and many have waiting lists, Cole said.

Classes on beginning computer skills, like how to use a mouse, are what seniors need, Kolander said. But most of all, they just need to learn how to use the technology, he said.

"Every senior should learn how to use a computer," he said.

Although Kolander learned how to use a computer through his job, it was a specialized system and he had to learn how to use systems like Microsoft Word. Now, though, he uses the computer for everything and used to teach classes at a Costa Mesa senior center.

"To me, my little computer is the window to the world," he said.

Kolander uses his computer to stay in touch with friends and family by sending e-mails and greeting cards. He also does online stock trading, but not too much now that the market is crummy, he said.

For more information on senior computer classes, check out the SANDS Recreation Guide at

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