White Rock Seniors’ Computer Club member Karl Gregg gives a presentation on Gmail last week. (Aaron Hinks photo)

White Rock Computer Club teaches the way of the future

From cat memes to security, the club has been teaching internet for the past 20 years

From funny cat memes to bolstering security while surfing the web, the White Rock Seniors’ Computer Club has been helping seniors keep up-to-date with technology for decades.

The group meets every Wednesday at the Kent Street Activity Centre to hear a presentation, or lesson, on something new in the tech world.

Last week, the group listened to a presentation on the latest Gmail changes. Some members said the new interface has made it a challenge to navigate the functions they regularly use.

The club, which is tailored for participants aged 55 and older, has more than 160 members that range from beginners to “techies.”

The group invites experts to give a presentation to its membership, and sometimes relies on its own members to speak about the latest developments.

“Us seniors didn’t grow up with computers, not like the younger generation. They take to computers like ducks in water,” said Bernie Blessman, a longtime member of the club.

Blessman said seniors are most interested in learning how to email, share photos, browse the internet and find humourous material online.

“Generally, they like to have funny stuff,” Blessman said.

The group was founded after it received a federal grant 21 years ago, Blessman added.

Over the years, certain presentation topics are repeated, particularly when it relates to security.

“Some of the seniors, especially the older ones that are single, they’re more susceptible to scams. We had people from the RCMP in give us a lecture on what to avoid and who to call,” Blessman said.

A common scam, Blessman said, is fraudsters phoning and claiming that they work for Microsoft and would like to provide a service.

“Microsoft will never call you,” Blessman said. “I even get calls from ‘Microsoft.’ I said, I don’t have a computer and they hang up right away.”

Blessman said most club members are alert enough to avoid scams, but “people do fall for it.”

The group learns about Android and Apple devices, which includes everything from cellphones and tablets to electronic wristwatches.

“Another thing that (the group) is exposed to, about 90 per cent of them use Microsoft products, Windows. Windows, unfortunately, has a habit when they release an update, sometimes it screws up your computer and you have no control over it. A recent update caused some customers to lose data,” Blessman said.

“We always advise our members that when something new comes down the pipe from Microsoft, don’t do it right away.”

Another word of caution the club has is “don’t believe everything you read or see on the internet. That’s a given.”

Blessman, 79, worked for a car company for 44 years before retiring. He can recall the days of the “big IBM machine” they had at work, and how it got replaced by a personal computer (PC).

“You get a little box on your desk and you could do everything that big machine could do,” he said.

He said seniors, generally, don’t want to be left behind when it comes to technology, especially if they have grandchildren.

However, keeping up with tech might make their kids dig a little deeper when comes time to exchange gifts.

“If your kids want to buy you something for Christmas, don’t ask for new shampoo or shaving cream. Ask for a new tablet,” Blessman said.

The group meets every Wednesday from 12:30 to 2:30 p.m. Guests may attend up to three weekly presentations, free of charge, before being required to join the club and become a member of the Kent Street Acitivity Centre.

More information on the club can be found at www.wrscc.ca

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