Iola Lowe

Iola Lowe

Iola Lowe

SCSEP participant and Digital Inclusion Initiative (DII) new learner Iola Lowe has always been a woman of action who doesn’t like depending on others. Discovering computers has given her a second wind.

In June of 2010, Iola, 58, moved to Sioux City, Iowa, to live with a friend. By late August, she was serving the community at a public park, had learned basic computer skills that she was steadily improving upon, and was attending community college full-time to study medical coding and billing.

And graduating from the Digital Inclusion Initiative (DII) project of our Sioux City, Iowa partner—the Community Action Agency of Siouxland—made it all happen, according to Iola.

My confidence is way up, she says. “I feel empowered by my new computer skills. They make me feel better about myself.

“When you get older, when it’s hard for you to learn new things, it takes something from you and makes you feel useless. My health and mental state are a lot better. Now I feel like there’s nothing I can’t do.”

When Iola moved to Sioux City, the first thing she did was go to the local workforce center to look for work. And the first thing someone there did was send Iola down the street to the Community Action Agency of Siouxland.

Iola quickly began a SCSEP assignment answering phones and scheduling reservations for cabins at the county Dorothy Pecaut Nature Center in Sioux City. At the same time, she was advised it would help her to have computer skills in order to look for jobs because most are listed online and most applications have to be submitted online as well.

Just about everything is computerized now, but a lot of us older people have never really thought about learning computers, especially if your job didn’t call for it, Iola says. That, at least, had been Iola’s situation.

A daughter had set Iola up with a computer and taught her to email. But Iola’s many years verifying patient information for a Georgia medical center hadn’t required computer skills. And it was a while since she’d worked full-time after a heart attack and living with family before the Sioux City move.

I wanted to start the DII program right away, but I had to wait a few weeks because there’s such demand for it, Iola recalls. I want to be able to take care of myself. I’ve never been good about waiting around for someone to give me three dollars.

When Iola finally got in the DII program, she was a little leery about using its computer because she didn’t want to mess it up by clicking on the wrong thing, she recalls. My coach, Rita Birke, gave me the confidence that I could do it.

While working her SCSEP assignment at the nature center, Iola has been able to keep improving her computer skills thanks to her co-worker, another SCSEP participant, who is teaching her how to create documents on the computer.

I can sit down now and go on the Internet and print a job application, Iola says. I haven’t quite mastered the document program yet, but with a little practice I’ll get it and I’m tempted to do a resume now.

And Iola is spreading the online word to fellow older adults she meets at the nature center. I meet ladies and other people my age who are struggling to get back into the workforce and I tell them they have to learn the computer, she says. Many respond that it’s too hard to learn. I tell them about DII and about Miss Rita, how patient she is and that there’s no reason to be afraid.

In the future, Iola plans to use computers to do things like shop for discounts and manage her health. I know how to put information in an online search engine, she says. I will definitely go online to do important things like managing my health care. I’ll be able to check up on a medicine I’ve been given, to see what it’s for.

The frosting on Iola’s cupcake is a new computer at home. Her friend’s nephew has set it up, complete with a high-speed connection—an expenditure today that’s necessary for those who don’t want to be stranded by the so-called digital divide. To me, getting back to feeling that I can do something for myself makes it all worthwhile, Iola says. I want the confidence to know that I can get out there and do it myself.