How older adults in Indiana are staying connected and continuing to learn

We use our phones to shop, to keep up with family and friends, and to stay entertained. Many of the processes, like paying bills or scheduling appointments, that were once done in person, via a phone call, or through the mail are now done virtually. 

For some, it’s streamlined how we move through the world, but for many older adults, smartphones and other devices can be confusing or inaccessible, leaving them feeling disconnected and out of touch. According to a 2024 report from AARP, 64 percent of adults aged 50 and over do not feel technology today is designed with their age in mind.

CourtesyParkview Senior ClubEmily Gorman, the director of community engagement for AARP Indiana, says educating older adults about technology is one of the ways their programs can help people who are experiencing social isolation. 

“Our goal in general is to combat the intimidating nature of the fast-paced world we’re living in,” Gorman says. “It can be hard to keep up.”

Research from AARP shows that seniors are interested in technology and its benefits, but as they age their discomfort in using technology decreases. Seven out of 10 adults aged 50 years or older experience chronic health issues, and a majority of them are not utilizing technology to help them manage their diagnosis, even with the knowledge that technology services can save time and money. 

This is just one of the topics the Parkview Seniors Club was created to address. Their goal is to help individuals experience a good quality of life as they age and to help address common challenges that arise for older adults in the community, like using modern technology. Through education, exercise classes, and other events, the Seniors Club has become a beloved way for older folks to engage with each other and support a healthy lifestyle. 

“One of our priority areas is positively impacting social isolation,” says Kylee Bennett, community well-being manager at Parkview Health. “The Seniors Club gives people a great way to engage with others of a similar age or lifestyle.”

CourtesyParkview Senior ClubThe club started in the 90s and has continually evolved to meet the changing needs of the community. Currently, there are more than 1000 members across northeast Indiana. 

In addition to teaching technology, the club addresses social isolation via the integration of social engagement with other aspects of wellness. This could be a seminar or an exercise class like Tai Chi, Arthritis & Balance, and others. The club’s events and activities are hosted in various locations depending on the type of activity.

One weekly educational opportunity is a class called “Train the Brain,” which features a different brain-related topic each week. This could be in the form of history trivia, which can bring back fond memories for many people, or another task involving memory and mental exercise.

Train the Brain classes also include lessons from a program called Senior Planet, the flagship program national nonprofit Older Adults Technology Services (OATS) from AARP.

“There’s so much information online that it can be hard for older adults to find what is right and best for them, so we like to bring in experts on many different topics,” Bennett says. 

When it comes to teaching technology to members, sometimes it means going back to the basics, like teaching others how to use a touch screen so they can make phone calls or video calls to stay connected to loved ones. 

Bennett and the rest of her team at Parkview are always looking out for topics that will be relevant to the group, and getting feedback on what they want to hear. 

“They have nearly every topic you could imagine,” Bennett says. “What I have really liked about it is they are willing to answer any questions from our members, provide additional resources for them, and they’ve even provided a phone number members could call for more help.”

Club members, like Rhea Freeman, say the activities and classes remind them they aren’t alone in the issues they face.

The Parkview Seniors Club offers six of these OATS classes per year. Some topics include a Spotify workshop, social media guidance, and many other topics that help older adults stay connected. 

CourtesyParkview Senior Club“I enjoy helping to support individuals to become the best versions of themselves,” says Bennett.

While technology could be intimidating to learn, club members report that they have fun in their classes.

“I don’t know where I’d be if I hadn’t joined the club ten years ago…I have a lot of fun laughing and making friends here,” says Terry Narhwold, another member of the Seniors Club.

The Parkview Seniors Club also offers classes on health from community experts, who cover medical, nutrition, exercise and prescription information.

Quarterly birthday parties are another event that both staff and participants look forward to. These parties always have a different theme and always have cake. Club members can enjoy games and a time to simply socialize and enjoy each other’s company. 

The biggest event the Seniors Club hosts each year is their holiday luncheon, which features entertainment and a sit-down meal near Christmastime. It draws in many guests each year. 

The Parkview Seniors Club is open to anyone 50 or over. To learn about becoming a member, click here or call Parkview Senior Services at 260-373-7289.

This article is made possible by support from AARP Indiana.
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