Seniors Earn Diplomas from Connected Living Computer Training Program

Mills Park Tower Graduation Ceremony April, 2012OAK PARK, Illinois- April 20, 2012. The commencement ceremony was much like any other graduation. The graduates marched to their seats in the converted common room where friends, family, and fellow residents greeted them with applause. “Pomp and Circumstance” played over a loudspeaker as images of smiling faces were projected behind the stage. Onlookers stood in the wings snapping photos of the special day. Twenty-two seniors and community members had just received diplomas from the Connected Living computer training program at Mills Park Tower in Oak Park, Illinois.

Founded in 2006, Connected Living works to transform the experience of aging by delivering a “Connected Life” though internet training and adoption programs in Illinois and Massachusetts.

Seniors in Mills Park Tower were instructed with a “High-tech, High Touch” approach, combining simplified technology with engaging classes and friendly support to ensure that broadband technology is adopted and usage is sustained.

“These seniors have really enjoyed learning about e-mail and Skype,” said Melissa Benwitz, community program manager of Mills Park Tower. “Once people realize how these tools can help connect them to the outside world and their families, the whole experience becomes so relevant.”

Connected Living’s unique program features a specially designed, user-friendly portal to the internet and each participant receives a subsidized computer. More than 4,500 participants have trained- outpacing the initial projection of 3,000.

This success may be due to the individualized attention that each learner receives. Every trainee is evaluated for their specific needs and receives a specialized curriculum on everything from basic computer navigation and using a mouse or keyboard to searching the internet for jobs, utilizing telehealth, and keeping up with social media and current events. The course follows a training track to give ensure each senior has a high level of retention and individualized learning.

The program also has a specialized track for persons with disabilities, reconnecting participants with family and friends, participating in online activities, forums and communities as well as having access to better health care tools online. 

“The favorite thing I learned in class was to be able to communicate directly with people via e-mail,” said Nell Hernandez, resident of Mills Park Tower and Connected Living graduate.

Connected Living, in conjunction with Mills Park Tower, replaced a rarely-used two workstation set up with ten new computers equipped with the comprehensive training program.

Now that the computer lab is up and running, residents are able to follow the program at their own pace.

“We have people in the lab 24/7,” said Grace Jo O’Leary, Connected Living graduate. “Residents would barely use the lab before this. It’s been a tremendous cohesive thing for the people on our building.”

In addition, Connected Living has recently partnered with a local high school and students are earning service-learning credits by offering tutoring to training participants.

“The program has turned our computer lab and our apartment building into a true community,” said Benwitz, “all of the people know their neighbors now.”

Click here to view a photo gallery from the ceremony.Connected Living Logo

Tags: adoption, Connected Living, education, Mills Park Tower, Oak Park, training

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