Joe Isaac was 70 when he started volunteering as a tech teacher at the Central Kentucky Computer Society, a nonprofit in his hometown of Lexington. Twenty years later he’s a mainstay. Lexington’s senior tech guru, Isaac demystifies computer use for some 30 older adults who come to class or tune in to his live stream the second Tuesday of every month.
When he’s not in the classroom, Isaac writes two blogs for CKCS that offer tips and how-to’s, along with a preview of the topics he’ll be covering in class. His May class covered a variety of topics, from how to use Cortana (Windows 10’s answer to Apple’s personal assistant, Siri), and how to tell which programs are open and configure your task bar most efficiently in Windows. Isaac also serves as local tech support: Students email him when they have questions or need help and he answers every one of them. He’ll even walk you through it by phone if that’s what it takes.
Isaac’s romance with digital technology started in the mid-80s, sparked by the wonders of a program he bought to help manage payroll for the Burger Shake that he and his cousin bought in the 50s when TVs came along and ate into the family’s live-theater business.
“CKCS was already up and running, so I joined them and learned a lot” Isaac told Senior Planet. “I got interested in Windows 95, mastered it and started teaching. Let me tell you something about CKCS, everybody works for free there, and I’ve never seen so many people work so hard for free in my life!”
Digital technology has come a long way since the ’80s and ’90s — and now that he’s retired, Joe no longer has to do payroll. What’s he doing on his computer these days?
We caught up with him at his home by phone on the eve of the Kentucky Derby and asked him.
How are you using your computer in your daily life?I like to read the Lexington Herald-Leader newspaper online. It saves trees and it’s magnified on my 24-inch screen, so I can read it more easily. The color is clear, the type is large. One of the things I do is when there’s an article about the University of Kentucky Wildcats, I send the article to myself, then forward it to my son in Portland, Oregon, and to students in my class who are fans of the [basketball] team.
After the paper, I read my email, and if there’s anything interesting, I’ll send it to the 20 to 30 people in my family folder. I check the weather, the latest TV news online, and I scan web cams. I love to see live scenes from different parts of the country.
Then I start working on my lesson plans. People don’t realize how much time you spend doing this. I love it, and I love to help people. When they have a problem with their computer, if I can help them it just makes me feel good.
When I get tired of brain work, I click on Spotify and listen to music — and I play online Solitaire at the same time. It relaxes me.
Any favorite sites or programs?Spotify. It is the most fantastic program and it’s free! You get songs by whoever you like on there. My favorites are Frank Sinatra, Glen Miller and Big Band sounds. I’ve got almost 200 songs on Spotify, and I play them while I work on something else.
When I find out about new computer stuff, I tell my class about it. Like when you get on Google Maps, you can click on the three lines on the left-hand side — they call that symbol a hamburger — and then you click on Traffic and then click on Lexington. It shows me how traffic is, whether it’s heavy or not, and where accidents are. If you click on Photos in the lower-left hand corner, it will show you about 20 photos of Lexington.
There’s another program called Alarms and Clocks. You can set it so your computer alerts you at a certain time.
I also love Facebook, because that’s how I keep up with how my kids and grandkids are doing — and great-grandkids. Otherwise I’d miss half their lives. I don’t post, except to hit “like” or “love” on it. I just read what the kids are up to.
How important is digital literacy for seniors like yourself?I think it’s so important. The main thing is, if you want to keep in touch with family — and elderly people have lots of family — you can send out an email to all of them in one batch to keep in touch with them.
Most people want to learn, and they like the computer once they get on to it. They can find out their bank balance, they keep in touch with people. There’s no disadvantages to it.
I almost cannot exist without a computer and the internet. I feel like I’d be a Third World country if I didn’t have it.
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A Day in the Digital Life of Joe Isaac