Trying to be tech savvy

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As so often with this article each month, I start the process of looking at the different groups and try to think what might interest readers about the University of the Third Age, writes Caroline Green of Wetherby U3A.

I write my column online and use my computer for most of my correspondence and communication. Although I still write letters I find that the convenience of being able to alter as I write, think on my feet and keep in touch with family and friends, is carried out using my personal computer and mobile phone.

If I get stuck; or something doesn’t work, or nothing responds or I ‘lose’ something while working I inevitably call on my husband. I realise I’m very fortunate to have my own ‘in house’ computer guru. He is also ‘the man to go to’ for anyone in Wetherby & District U3A with specific computer problems. I asked Mike Green about the support he offers. He said he offers help and advice on all aspects relating to a personal computer, whether it be a laptop or desktop. He also offers help with tablets and smartphones which use the Android operating system. Apparently, these are now widespread and include makers such as Samsung, LG and Huawei. He will also happily cope with Apple devices although the U3A does have a group which helps iPad users. Mike finds that what bothers people most, is the fear of doing something which will damage the device; he simply tells people that they won’t do any harm, only if they drop it on a hard surface! One valuable piece of advice he has always given me ‘If all else fails, follow the advice of most ‘techies’: switch off the device and restart it’. It is not only us senior citizens who have memory problems!

Sue Addinall is the Membership Secretary and when I asked her about how she manages the membership, she explained that the introduction of a yearly online renewal system, Wild Apricot, has made her life much easier. Membership is still increasing and currently stands at 1190 and of those around 50 percent renew online. There are however, a few members who experience problems with online renewal. Some people don’t want PayPal involvement, and some members just can’t manage online payments. There are however, two other methods of payment on all communications.

Married couples who continue to share email addresses will always only be able to use online renewal for one of them, however, the number of these is reducing a little each year.

Sue went on to say that many members do like the ease of online renewal. Sue herself certainly does, as membership secretary, and said that the membership system allows her to use an app on her phone so that she has been known to take membership renewals whilst out and about at groups.

As Mike mentioned, Sue and Lesley Titchmarsh run iPad courses with Wetherby & District U3A. I asked Lesley what drove her to start the iPad/iPhone course, and she said it ‘was the cost of postage for our U3A and the amount of effort involved in contacting members who were not on email’. With the Wild Apricot database, they can contact all members on email with minimum effort but for those not on email it means a phone call or a letter which involves the cost of stamps, paper, printers, toner and not least a lot of volunteer’s time.

Those who attend the iPad group really appreciate learning about how to use email, being able to take photos and send them to friends and family. Learning about Apps and what they do and finally learning how to use search engines such as Google has proved to be useful. Online shopping is another favourite topic along with using FaceTime which allows people to talk to and see friends and relatives who do not live close.

Mike, Sue and Lesley are finding that more and more people are using iPads and iPhone in preference to PCs nowadays, so ‘times, they are a changing!’

If you would like to know more about using computers, please look on our website under ‘Activities’.;