Guiding Seniors Through A Fear Of Computers

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Paul Andrews starts his beginning computer classes at the Payson Senior Center by tearing a computer apart.

"We don't do a whole lot of teaching bits and bytes, though I teach them what it is so they're more likely to explore new areas," Andrews said.

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Louise Lawrence, Tom Pryor and Nadine Lawson, members of the Payson Senior Citizens Center, learn computer basics from instructor Paul Andrews, who is the Volunteer of the Month at the Center.

Andrews, who was named Volunteer of the Month at the Senior Citizens Center, started teaching computer classes to center members in 2002.

Since 2002, more than 125 people have graduated from the beginners' class and about 50 from the advanced class.

"There were only three computers when I started," he said. To get more, he put up "wanted" fliers all over town and was overwhelmed with donations.

"Now, we have about 14 we were able to salvage from the bunch," Andrews said. He continues to seek donations of larger screens, but he can't take any more computers without better wiring at the center.

His 15th beginners' class is just ending and the last of his spring advanced classes has started.

"The classes are always full and there's a waiting list," he said. Each class learns at its own pace and lasts from six to 10 weeks.

Most of his beginners are afraid they will do something that will mess the computer up, so they confine themselves to very restricted routine use. He said most of the beginners say they want to learn to use computers because their grandchildren want them to send e-mails or they have been given a computer as a gift and want to learn how to use it.

Seniors have their own set of challenges when it comes to computer use, such as arthritis and poor eyesight, but those challenges can be easily resolved with the right equipment, he said.

"Those who practice what's taught will be successful using computers," he said. "Those who just come for something to do, usually have to take (the class) again."

Andrews spent 32 years with Motorola, taking all the many required computer-training sessions he needed to be a project leader. He worked in the Scottsdale plant, which handled the company's government electronics contracts. Motorola also employed his wife, Jan, as a technical writer.

They owned a cabin in Pine for many years, but decided it would be too much work to convert it into a permanent home. In 1996, they sold it and bought a house in Payson.

When they retired in 1998, they moved here permanently.

Jan has been in Arizona since she was a toddler, moving here with her family from Michigan. Andrews came to Arizona in 1965 from Corning, N.Y. They have six children, eight grandchildren and one great-great grandchild.

When he is not teaching his computer classes at the Senior Center, Andrews is a personal tutor and consultant, but he also enjoys woodwork and loves to fish in Alaska and around the Rim Country.

He would tell people wanting to buy their first computer to get a PC from Wal-Mart.

Computer classes at the Center are open to members only.

The classes serve 12 to 14 people at a time and are held only in the spring and fall. The next classes will be offered in the fall.

Those interested may register at the front desk of the Senior Center.

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