When she was in her 50s, Virginia Hope embarked on a new career in nursing. At 85, when the rooms in her home needed to be painted, she just did it herself. And at 99, she’s learned how to do a number of new things on her iPhone, including texting, sharing photos with friends and family and using a ride-hailing app.
“I like learning new things,” she says. “The world keeps moving right along and I just want to keep up with it.”
To better master her phone, Virginia turned to Oasis Connections, a digital literacy program that helps older adults improve their technology skills. The training is available in Oasis centers across the network, as well as senior centers and residences, faith-based organizations, job help centers, YMCAs and libraries. More than 114,000 participants have enrolled in the program.
“Digital literacy is essential today for people to access services and stay connected with family and friends,” says National Technology Manager Amy VanDeVelde, who initially helped Virginia get started with Connections.
“When people first come to Connections, we try to assess the level of technology skills they have, so we can help them select classes that truly meet their needs,” says Amy. “This includes asking the student to provide a self-assessment. We see a wide range of needs, from people who are ‘beginner, beginner,’ to those who have pretty sophisticated level of comfort with technology. Frequently, older adults have more skills than they think they do.”
Virginia was no beginner. She already owned an iPhone and was texting. But she wanted to share photos and to be more comfortable managing apps and settings.
“Knowing more about all that I can do with my iPhone makes me feel more self-sufficient,” adds Virginia, who still drives, but likes to keep the ride-hailing app handy for when she wants to travel on highways or further from her home.
“It’s really encouraging to see when an older adult comes to Connections determined to transform the technology they have from a barrier into a tool,” adds Amy. “When that happens, technology is a part of the solution to combat social isolation.”
Virginia, who likes to point out that she was born before women could vote, isn’t about to let her age keep her from engaging with others and learning new things. She’s very interested in economics and medicine, and is intentional about staying physically active as well.
“You have to motivate yourself,” she says. “You just get out there and see what there is to do. I try to get as much exercise as I can. I have a treadmill and a rowing machine. Getting out and walking is the best because I can get around and meet my neighbors—fresh air and conversation. I’m still learning and still wanting to learn, which is critical for a long life.”
Watch Virginia tell more about her story to KSDK-Channel 5’s Allie Corey.