John W. Rathgeber, 80, of Lexington, realized his interaction with a sibling in Florida and with some of his children and grandchildren was steadily decreasing.
So, he bought an iPad to replace his aging laptop, signed up for classes at the Apple Store and soon realized he couldn't keep up.
Neighbors told him about their success with a tablet class for seniors at the Charles Young Community Center. That's all it took.
Keeping in touch with his children and grandchildren was a big priority for Rathgeber, a former pilot for 30 years in the U.S. Air Force and aviation consultant.
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"I see other seniors who aren't into computers, and they seem to have lost regular touch with their families. They don't get calls very often, and no one writes letters any more.
"I am trying to keep up with family, and with my sister and her family in Florida," he continued. "They are big on Facebook down there."
The tablet class is free to anyone 50 years old and older and is conducted by members of AARP, some of whom were taught last fall by students from The Learning Center at Linlee, an alternative school for grades 7-12 that offers smaller class sizes and real-world experience.
Interaction between generations is the premise of Cyber-Seniors, a documentary that AARP is sponsoring at the Kentucky Theatre on Sept. 23.
In 2009, Macaulee and Kascha Cassaday of Toronto, ages 16 and 18 respectively, started the Cyber-Seniors program after seeing how their grandparents' lives changed after learning about email, Skype and Facebook. The girls wanted the same for other older adults.
They recruited their friends, came up with a training manual, and headed out to a local retirement home. The girls' older sister, director Saffron Cassaday, began filming the sessions.
Cyber-Seniors is a fun-loving view of young people teaching seniors, most of whom had never used a computer. One of the students was intrigued by cooking videos on YouTube and decided to make her own.
That video is part of CyberSeniorsCorner on YouTube.
While he hasn't made a video yet, Rathgeber does learn something new every class.
"As I went every week, others would talk about things, and I said, 'I need to know that,'" he said. "I had a different instructor this week, and he had a lot of tips."
Estella White, 77, also attends those classes. "I am a learner, and I am doing well," she said, excitedly.
Her husband bought her a tablet, and she had her grandchildren download the Bible on it. But reading it was all she knew how to do.
She complained to Katherine Dailey, White's longtime friend and supervisor of the seniors program at Charles Young for the Urban County Government's Office of Aging Services, about feeling isolated while recovering from cancer. Dailey urged her to attend the Body Balance and computer classes at the center.
"I had no idea there was so much more on the computer," White said. "I was afraid if I left the Bible, it would disappear."
Now she visits other sites.
"The Bible is always in the cloud," White said. "I can always go back to it no matter what I do."
White plans to teach her husband, William White, who has a laptop that he doesn't use.
"Almost everybody you talk to wants to know your email address," she said. "I'm going to do that next."
Kristy Stambaugh, administrator for the city's Aging Services and Disability Support, said that after the film, there will be a panel discussion about how technology can serve as a bridge for generations. Panelists will include Tim Kelly, former Herald-Leader publisher and current national AARP board member, two members of the Mayor's Youth Council, and Nick Such, cofounder of Awesome Inc.
AARP is providing soft drinks and popcorn, and there will be two door prizes: One youth and one senior will win a tablet. The prizes are an incentive for youth to get involved with teaching older adults how to stay digitally connected, Stambaugh said.
"The goal is to bridge that whole divide," she said.
Meanwhile, those who are inspired to learn more about tablets are welcome to the classes from 9:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. Mondays at Charles Young. More instructors were trained recently to better serve you.
Myrte Nudd, a panelist and instructor, said she has had only one person give up in more than nine months of teaching the class. "Some of them come with a great deal of experience and want to learn to do something different, and other people come with the device still in the box," she said. "They are not afraid to try. They just need a little help."
For more information about the classes, call Dailey at (859) 246-0281.