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You can call Terrell Danley Sr. a techie. At 81, the Washington, D.C., resident is fluent in the language of the Internet: downloading, Google Hangouts, social networks, apps, Web surfing, you name it. And he’s committed to plugging his contemporaries into the online world.

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Terrell DanleyThree days a week, Danley shares his love and knowledge of computers with his class of 12 older adults that is part of pilot program called AARP Foundation Connecting to Community. More than 160 seniors and 44 volunteer instructors are participating in six-month pilots in Washington and Sioux Falls, S.D. The inaugural group of 50 will graduate in November.

Each student gets an iPad, Internet service, training and support. The goal is to keep them in touch with family, friends and community.

“Senior citizens are somewhat isolated,” says Danley, a retired accountant who became familiar with computers during his long career with the U.S. Department of Agriculture. “The whole initiative is to get them connected again.”

Danley’s students range in age from 75 to mid-80s; none had had any experience with computers. “It was a real challenge to get them involved in technology,” he says.

But that quickly changed. After a few sessions, class members really got into learning and began arriving early to jockey for a good seat at their weekly four-hour lab session. They have learned how to take and send photos on the iPad, use email and make video calls with FaceTime, among other things. And they’ve absorbed the information so well that  “some of them now are even helping their kids out” online, Danley says with a chuckle.

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What’s more, the students have bonded and become friends. And they’re more engaged with family and friends thanks to their new computer skills.

The transformation is Danley’s reward for the long hours he puts in for the program. “I’m amazed at the progress they’ve made,” he says. “It’s so exciting to watch them learn.”

Photo: Courtesy of Terrell Danley Sr.

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