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A Retired Teacher Steps Confidently Into the Digital Age

AARP Foundation’s newest initiative is helping older adults get comfortable with technology


spinner image Louvenia Williams Story


“Don't throw us away because we have gotten to a certain age,” says Louvenia Williams, 73. “We still want to learn.”

Born and raised in Newberry, South Carolina, Louvenia has accomplished a great deal: She graduated from Voorhees College in 1971 and worked in the education sector for 17 years, 13 of them as a teacher. She also worked in the nonprofit sector, supporting kids and their families for over 16 years. And she raised three boys on her own after the unexpected passing of her husband of 23 years, and cared for her mother and her only sibling, her sister, at the end of their lives.

She’s retired now, but that doesn’t mean she’s done learning. “You’re at a point where you're enjoying life; you go to church, you get involved in the community things. But there's still something missing.”

One thing that was missing for Louvenia was feeling independent in the digital age. “My sons were always doing things for me,” she says. “They would just take my phone, or they would do the computer for me. Finally they told me, ‘Mom, we're not gonna do it anymore. You're gonna have to do it.’ So I started looking for classes.”

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As luck would have it, the Newberry County Literacy Council, a local nonprofit where Louvenia was a volunteer, had recently begun hosting AARP Foundation’s Digital Skills Ready@50+™ training sessions. “This was ideal because the Literacy Council was a nonprofit I was a part of anyway,” she says. “When this came along, AARP Foundation and Javar, that was icing on the cake. That young man sparked so much in all of us, not just me.”

“That young man” is Javar Juarez, founder and senior director of Broad River Business Alliance, a nonprofit organization in Columbia, South Carolina, that’s dedicated to reducing crime in the area and rebuilding its base of small business owners. Javar has long been interested in bridging the generation gap as a means of serving his community.

“Plenty of older adults have this misconception about who the younger generation is,” he says. “They were really intimidated by this generation. And nobody in our area was offering older adults an opportunity to interact with younger adults.” Javar applied to become a community partner in hopes that delivering the Digital Skills Ready@50+ trainings at the Literacy Council would help “engage older adults in a way that no longer makes them afraid. The AARP brand seeps through any disenfranchisement people might feel.”

Attendance exceeded his expectations. He thought he’d get one or two students, but he ended up with 26. Louvenia credits Javar’s energy and engaging personality with making participants feel comfortable. “He connects to every single person. It was never boring, and that hour just flew by.”

The Digital Skills Ready@50+ sessions taught Louvenia and her classmates a variety of skills, from the most basic — “One lady was there who had a brand new phone but didn't know how to turn it on!” — to texting, copying and pasting items on her phone, and Louvenia’s top priority: Excel spreadsheets. “My son would always do my spreadsheets for my budget, so when I finally found out how to do that, I called him and said, ‘I know how to do spreadsheets. You don't have to do them for me anymore!’”

Louvenia can’t overstate the impact the Digital Skills Ready@50+ training has had on her. “It gave me confidence and a purpose,” she says, adding that she hopes there will be more programs like it.

"They help us feel that we are still a part of society. Don't leave us in the dark, you know? Bring us along.”

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Find Free Workshops and Online Courses

Feeling overwhelmed by learning new technology? Get the basics down with classes you can complete online at your own pace.