Sealing the Digital Divide

Updated: May 7, 2021

An Interview by Miki Vargas with David Dring, Director of Innovative Programs at Bay Ridge Center

David works out of our storefront on Third Avenue.

Technology has become ever more important in the days of the pandemic. Dispensing critical information and providing a window into virtual socialization, technology has been invaluable for seniors. Bay Ridge Center members have communicated with their friends they would normally see at our centers as well as with loved ones far away via face-to-face sessions on Zoom. Lonely seniors mandated to quarantine have loved attending our classes and hanging out with friends. Now, technology is essential for seniors to obtain the vaccine.

All of these benefits of the Internet are difficult to navigate. Glitches, scams, and the lack of affordable equipment are obstacles to enjoying the fruits of technology. Some seniors with disabilities may be challenged to learn technology due to declining cognitive skills. Furthermore, seniors are also unaware of the many benefits available on the Internet. Enter David Dring. David has worked with seniors to overcome these challenges with one-on-one troubleshooting sessions as well as classes like “Get Smart with your Smartphone.”

David is an award-winning, internationally acclaimed expert in senior services with a specialty in senior technology programming. As an Intern at The Bay Ridge Center, I had the opportunity to talk with David Dring, Director of Innovative Programs at the Bay Ridge Center about the challenges of technology among seniors. David has been working and teaching technology to seniors since 1996 at the Department of Aging. He joined the Bay Ridge Center a year ago.

How challenging is it to teach seniors about technology today?

It’s like learning a new culture. The youth of today grew up in the culture. Seniors should not feel bad about bad about it, it takes time. I teach them through mapping.

David, top left, and a few of the participants in his Get Smart with Your Smartphone class on Zoom.

How long have you been teaching seniors?

I have been working with seniors since 1996. I started teaching at the Department of Aging.

How many seniors do you teach a week?

I teach about 25-30 individual’s a week. My classes are usually full.

What percentage return to your classes?

100% return. They find it interesting and rewarding.

What are some of the concerns that seniors have about technology?

They are concerned about identify theft, the cost of the internet. They are just learning that part of the culture is understanding about downloading things that could harm your computer.

How to do you see seniors facing the challenges of changes in technology?

It’s difficult for everyone to stay on top of technology not just seniors. It changes all the time, it’s difficult to stay on top of everything.

What has been your greatest accomplishment working with seniors?

I lead the team that created Benefit Checkup an online service to help older adults and their families determine their eligibility. It is used by millions all over the United states.

How has technology changed their world in the past year?

It has push some to learn how to utilize technology in order to stay in touch with their families. Others have enjoyed shopping and keeping in touch with current events.

David offers Tech classes for older adults Tuesdays and Thursdays at 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. See our calendar for the weekly schedule and topic.

Migdalia (Miki) Vargas is an intern at Bay Ridge Center and also works as a Patient Navigator in the department of Oncology at New York Presbyterian Brooklyn Methodist Hospital. She also is a student of social work at Sacred Heart University. Her passion is helping people find their way in life through improving their quality of life through health education. She leads The Art of Listening group for Bay Ridge Center

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