Editor’s note: This article originally appeared in Sound Publishing’s The Time of Your Life, Spring 2015.
If it hadn’t been for that garage sale back in 2008, Betty Sarachene might never have met Karen and Warren Beauchene.
It was there that the three got started talking computers. And now, seven years later, Betty and Karen are leading the Kitsap Computing Seniors.
“They noticed the empty computer box my iMac came in that was in my garage,” said Sarachene. “We just got to talking and pretty soon they’re telling me about this computer group for seniors.”
The group, Kitsap Computing Seniors, has been around for more than 20 years. It was started by Silverdale resident Rampton Harvey, who wrote a letter to the editor asking if there were other seniors who wanted to learn about computers. After receiving 27 responses, he formed the group.
Today, the group has more than 240 members who range in age from 35 to in their 80s. The average age is 65 to 70.
“Anyone is welcome,” Sarachene said. “But most of our members are retired and have time on their hands.”
The group has a monthly membership meeting where they have a speaker and a potluck afterward. About 100 members show up for that. Speakers include experts on doing taxes online, finding your newspaper online, or librarians from the Kitsap Regional Library who talk about what library resources are online.
The group also offers classes in computers, computer labs, special interest groups such as the Mac group, on-call computer technicians to help members with issues that come up, and the New Horizons group which takes in used computers and revamps them for use by members or students in the area that are in need of a computer. Both desktop computers and laptops are restored.
Computer classes are offered at the Silverdale Goodwill store and at Mountain View Middle School in Bremerton. Sessions for practicing and using computers are offered at Mountain View as well as at the Sylvan Way Branch of the KRL in east Bremerton and at Goodwill.
Monthly general membership meetings are on the third Monday of each month at 10 a.m. at the Silverdale Community Center, 9729 Silverdale Way, although they are looking for a new location due to the pending closure of the community center. Dues are only $20 a year and with that comes a monthly newsletter and the ability to use on-call computer help when needed.
Karen and Betty say many of the folks who join the group just want to be able to email their grandchildren and use Facebook.
“Some of them also Skype with their family who live away,” Sarachene said. “They just want to keep up with what’s out there in the computer world.”
Both Betty and Karen are pretty hip when it comes to computers and do their bill paying online, as well as shopping and researching genealogy.
“I take a lot of photographs, so I use Photoshop a lot,” Betty said.
“And I email a lot and play games on the computer,” Karen added.
They both have iPads and use those for a game called “Words with Friends” which is a competitive Scrabble game where they play each other, “with spellcheck,” Betty added.
There’s really only one thing that they haven’t updated, they both said.
“That’s my flip phone,” Betty said. “I love it. It makes calls and takes calls. And texts. That’s all I need.”
Karen and her husband have been members of Computing Seniors since 2005. They found the group at the Sylvan Way branch library.
“We just happened to be at the library and stumbled on to them,” she said. “We went to the Mac meeting and the rest is history.”
The Beauchenes moved to Poulsbo from California after retirement. She was a librarian and he was a mechanical supervisor for United Airlines. They have a daughter in Seattle.
Sarachene, too, landed in Poulsbo after retiring. Computing Seniors’ members are great at helping each other with new technology, they say. And members love to socialize.
“That’s a part of it, too,” Beauchene said. “We have some great potlucks.”
The nonprofit group relies on membership dues and donations to fund their work.
Anyone interested in joining should go to www.KitsapComputingSeniors.org to download an application, or write to PO Box 3166, Silverdale, WA 98383.