Seniors cozying up to computers

March 05, 1998


Staff Writer, Chambersburg

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - Patricia King uses hers to chat with her daughter. Hank and Barbara Benhardt are buying a new one. Calvin Hausenfluck thought he'd never use one.

The four senior citizens are among 20 people who have been learning computers or expanding their skills through classes offered by the Franklin County Area Agency on Aging.

Joanne Post, an administrator with the agency, said more than 180 people are waiting to take the course.

"I have a daughter in Alabama. That's how we correspond," King, 64, said this week. The Greencastle, Pa., woman also uses her personal computer to contact relatives in Indiana and friends in Florida.


Although she's on her computer almost every day, the retired Citicorp employee said, "I took the course to go back to the senior center and help the other seniors when they get the computers."

The agency learned this week that the Pennsylvania Department of Aging approved grants for two computers at both the Greencastle and Waynesboro, Pa., senior centers.

The five-week, 10-session course that King and nine others took at the Franklin County Area Vocational Technical School ended Thursday. Post, who teaches the course, also teaches another at Chambersburg Area Senior High School.

The courses at the vo-tech school cost $35, but Post said the fee is likely to go up.

"We'll definitely have to hire an instructor" to meet the demand, she said.

The courses are being taught at the high school in partnership with the Chambersburg Area School District. In exchange for the course, the senior citizens volunteer 10 hours of their time to tutor elementary school students, according to Post.

Post said the agency has been offering the courses since last fall.

When asked if he had any previous computer experience, Hausenfluck, 71, a retired sales manager with the Sunshine Biscuit Company, said "none whatsoever. I never thought I'd be interested."

He said he changed his mind last year during Senior Fun Day at Wilson College, where he checked out a computer display.

"Surprising" said agency Director Kim Murdaugh of the response from seniors to the classes.

"Some of the people in our class are getting computers. I think I'm just going to use the ones at the senior center," Hausenfluck said. He said he enjoys going online to read newspaper and sports Web sites.

"We didn't know Windows '95 and we'd never been on the Internet," said Barbara Benhardt of Greencastle. She and her husband have a personal computer, but she'd used it mostly for word processing.

"I was interested in some of the health things" on the Internet, Benhardt said. She also likes going online for information about news, weather and travel.

Benhardt, who said she's over 60, said her husband enjoys checking out Web sites for information on sports, golf, travel and the stock market.

"My husband likes it for the stock market," King said of the Internet. Along with chatting with family and friends, she uses their home computer for bookkeeping and printing signs for the senior center.

Hank and Barbara Benhardt are ready to move up in the computer world. They are getting a Gateway 2000 system.

She said their older computer has been passed down to one of their children.

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