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Getting connected

Joslyn Adult Center looks to launch a state-of-the-art computer lab

October 27, 2009|By Christopher Cadelago

WEST BURBANK — Catherine Nicholls’ family has tried many ways to goad the 89-year-old into trying her hand at the personal computer.

But each time she’s avoided lessons, despite pleas that it would serve as means to connect with 13 grandsons via e-mail and social networks.

“To be honest, it seems a little scary,” said Nicholls while waiting for lunch at the Joslyn Adult Center, which serves those 55 and older. “They say, ‘Why don’t you join Facebook?’ I don’t know how to respond.”

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Her refrain is common among a generation more prone to pick up a phone than log on to a computer. But as baby boomers retire and continue to seek socialization, entertainment and education, city officials are hoping that a proposed cyber café might change that.

The roughly $500,000 project, funded through a mix of federal grants, calls for converting an courtyard into an arts-and-crafts center complete with a sky-lit atrium, and changing the craft center space into a state-of-the-art computer laboratory with about two dozen machines and a coffee bar. Construction is slated to begin this winter.

“We’re getting interest from people who haven’t been to the center,” Recreation Supervisor Gayle Migden said. “Our goal is to get everybody connected.”

The proposed improvements come as statewide budget cuts continue to eat away at adult programs and services, administrators said. The center, staffed by about 600 volunteers, also supplies transportation and an average of 100,000 meals each year for its clients.

Despite the center’s efforts to meet clients needs in a variety of ways, currently computer instruction is being offered by a single volunteer instructor using one computer. And the wait list often stretches two weeks or more, said Matthew Franco, a clerk with the city’s retired and senior volunteer program.

The students, some of whom need help operating a keyboard and mouse, request lessons on everything from creating e-mail accounts to and looking up recipes online.

“A lot of people have a brand new computer they received as a gift and are coming in to learn the basics,” Franco said.

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