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During its heyday, CoSNUG presented programs and provided a forum for members to get answers to their computer questions. Members received a monthly newsletter, CoSNUG News Bytes, and access to the group’s library of books, shareware and public domain programs. Dues topped out at $18 a year for a family membership.
“The only remnant left for diehard members will be one class a month at the Center being put on by perhaps our two most gifted instructors, Ann Titus and Marty White,” O’Neill says. “They’ll be doing this under the Senior Center banner.”
This is probably the reason most of our groups were formed, to help each other learn how these complicated computers work. But as they have gotten more powerful, computers have gotten much easier to use.
We can all remember how if you wanted to connect a computer to a modem you needed to know how to set internal jumpers to select the right port and interrupt level, set up the dialing string for the modem to work properly with a particular communication program and many other things before your 300 bit per second modem would work.
In those days we needed a computer user group to make sense out of computer communication, but today all we need to know is whether to get DSL or Cable, and connect a wire from the modem the company provides to a network card jack on the back of our computer, and everything else is automatic.
But, if this is the reason most of our groups were formed, does this mean we all are destined to dissolve as CoSNUG did? Not necessarily. If groups are willing to evolve and think creatively, they can still flourish.
Part of CoSNUG will live on in classes some of their members teach at the Colorado Springs Senior Center (http://www.csseniorcenter.com/) which was originally set up in 1982 by the city. In 2009 budget cuts forced the city to drop their support (http://snipurl.com/215rwv0) so now they need to get their funding elsewhere.
Many cities have Senior Centers or other programs for seniors. Tulsa is one of several cities in Oklahoma to have RSVP (Retired Senior Volunteer Program http://www.rsvptulsa.org/). The Computer Club of Oklahoma City (http://www.ccokc.org/) has a SeniorNet (http://www.seniornet.org/) chapter as one of its SIGs (http://snipurl.com/215sb4t). Does your city have a Senior Center? If so, you should contact them and see if they have classes for seniors. If yes, ask if it is OK for someone from your group to make a presentation about your UG. Some of the attendees of those classes might join your group to learn even more.
Would some of your members enjoy teaching seniors who might not have learned computers when they were working, but who would now like to be able to email and have Skype video calls with their grandchildren and great grandchildren? You might approach the senior center to begin offering classes.
Several members from the Sarasota PCUG in Florida volunteer to staff a table at a local library to answer questions. They bring along a laptop for additional help. This has resulted in many visitors and some new members.
Does your group have a Computer Refurbishing SIG like the Tulsa Computer Society does (http://helpingtulsa.org/)? They provided so many computers to Senior Centers that a special senior backup image was developed to be restored on the computers (http://helpingtulsa.org/images/senior.htm), and at one time had a special Daytimers SIG for Seniors to attend and learn about computers without having to drive at night.
The Sarasota PCUG in Florida (www.spcug.org) and Rockland PCUG (www.rpcug.org) in New York also have refurbishing programs. If your group is interested in starting one, contacting the Tulsa, Sarasota, or Rockland group would be a good start.
If you want to test the waters reaching out to Seniors, you might want to try what the Valencia Falls Computer & Technology Club (http://www.ariesmart.com/vfcc/) is doing and hold one medical technology presentation a year. In December they had a presentation on medical robots doing minimally-invasive surgery by a doctor that regularly uses the robots and a rep from the company who manufactures them.
Reaching out to seniors is not the only way to revive a declining membership. The Reaching Out article on page #3 has many other ideas, but as we all get greyer and find it harder to get around, we should be able to identify even more with the need to help seniors.