Sometimes, Bill Poehling’s computer will stop working and he can’t figure out why.
But the resident of Olathe’s Santa Marta retirement community says he can count on Larri Brooks to quickly fix whatever’s wrong.
“I’ve never encountered a problem that she couldn’t handle, and I think probably anyone else here would say the same,” Poehling said.
Brooks has provided computer training for about five years to members of the computer club at Santa Marta, 13800 W. 116th St., where she teaches courses for two hours once a month. She also visits the apartments of residents who can’t make it to class to help them with computer challenges.
Santa Marta and Topeka’s LULAC Senior Center are among the places where senior citizens can receive free training that will help them carry out digital tasks, such as emailing grandchildren or using Skype to take part in video chats with far-away relatives.
The Business and Industry Center at Washburn Institute of Technology has offered computer training for senior citizens since 2015 at Topeka LULAC Senior Center, 1502 N.E. Seward Ave.
Participants receive hands-on training about topics that include computer fundamentals, how to buy a computer, how to use a mouse, how to send email, how to manage files and how to Skype, said Washburn Tech business and industry coordinator Tim Clothier.
Washburn Tech typically offers the course for 90 minutes on Wednesday mornings at Topeka LULAC Senior Center over a five-week period, Clothier said. Anyone who wishes to participate may take part at no charge, though he cautioned the course — which can’t accommodate more than 15 students per session — tends to fill up. The next course has yet to be scheduled.
LULAC uses grant funding it receives to pay Washburn Tech $175 per course. Providing the course is Washburn Tech’s “way of giving back,” Clothier said.
“I think we look for those opportunities where we can assist the community and enrich people’s lives,” he said.
At Santa Marta, Brooks arrives on the second Saturday of each month to teach a computer course from 1 to 2 p.m. and a devices course focusing on such things as smart phones and iPads from 2 to 3 p.m., said Mary Duerst, a Santa Marta resident who retired after teaching high school computer classes and now manages the retirement community’s computer club and class.
Brooks worked as a technician for Microsoft at the time she began teaching the course at Santa Marta, and now works for the University of Kansas Hospital, according to Duerst. Santa Marta pays Brooks a stipend for her services. The class is open only to Santa Marta residents, who attend free of charge.
Twelve to 15 students generally show up, though the class has room to grow because the room where it meets could easily accommodate 25 people, Duerst said.
Poehling said Brooks has saved Santa Marta residents “thousands and thousands of dollars” they otherwise would have needed to pay computer professionals to fix the problems they encounter.
“Our average age is 80 years-plus here,” he said, “and we know just enough about computers to be dangerous.”
Contact reporter Tim Hrenchir at (785) 295-1184 or @ttimhrenchir on Twitter.