Online Archives from Imperial Valley Press
March 21, 2002
Lure of e-mail snares senior citizen
By JENNIFER RALTON-SMITH
So what's your excuse for not embracing the brave
new world of computers and all the hi-tech technology that goes
Richard Hanson is 85 years old and blind, and he's a
student enrolled in Imperial Valley College's computer access
The course, run by IVC's disabled student programs
and services department, is at the Imperial Valley Center for
the Blind in El Centro.
"At first I thought all this computer
technology was beyond my understanding. I thought it was all too
mind-boggling and I'd never get into it," Hanson said
Tuesday as he worked with his instructor Paige Turini.
Hanson, who hails originally from a little town
outside Tacoma, Wash., is a winter visitor to the Imperial
Valley and heard about the course through the grapevine at his
R.V. park in El Centro.
Inspired by computer-savvy children and
grandchildren, Hanson purchased his first computer recently and
decided to take computer courses to gain an in-depth working
He concedes the thought of being able to communicate
instantly via e-mail with family members was a big part of the
lure to learn.
Hanson's eyesight succumbed to macular degeneration
two years ago and in his words, "I can see everything; I
just don't know what it is I'm seeing because my eyes can't
Macular degeneration is an umbrella term
historically used to describe a group of diseases that causes
sight sensing cells in the macular zone of the retina to
malfunction, resulting in loss of central or detail vision,
typically in people 55 and older.
Turini explained that she uses a computer program
that is capable of enlarging the screen text to a suitable
viewing size for those with impaired sight and that the program
is available with a 'talking' text for those without sight.
Guiding Hanson through an on-screen lesson Tuesday
morning, Turini smiles broadly as she looks up and says, "I
just love it that he doesn't feel it's time to stop learning,
he's 85 and he still wants to learn!"
Turini grins when she says, "We'll be doing a
summer school computer class when Richard's course finishes at
the end of the semester, but I don't think I'm going to be able
to convince him to stay through the summer. I'd know I was doing
a really good job if he did agree to stay!"
"He's an 85-year-old who doesn't know it,"
is the way Hanson's wife Nathalie puts it, grinning as she adds,
"He just has so much enthusiasm, there isn't anything he
Nathalie, who had dropped by to pick her husband up
after his class finished, says she's aware of the concept of the
spouse-turned-computer-geek but is adamant there won't be any
frequent trips to the computer store for upgrades even though
she concedes, "Richard loves computer toys."
"We both have families very much into computers
so when they upgrade, we'll get the computer they're getting rid
of," Nathalie states firmly. Though judging by the loving
way Nathalie looks at her husband when she says this, there is a
sense there may be some 'wiggle room' for Richard Hanson to
acquire some more 'computer toys' as time goes on.
For those interested in learning to use a computer
but think they may have a disability that would prevent them
from learning, Turini says she would encourage them to contact
IVC at 355-6312.
"It doesn't matter what the disability is, we
have some sort of technology that should be able to help."
Classes are conducted in English or Spanish although
Turini concedes she may need 'a little help' from her students
when it comes to her Spanish.
The final word from Turini is, "There is
nothing to keep anybody of any age out of school. If a person is
interested in learning, then we'll work around any
>> Staff Writer Jennifer Ralton-Smith can be
reached at 337-3442 or firstname.lastname@example.org