Norma (age 71) and Art Menard (age 73) are 47-year married couple; both are polyglot educators with a passion for community building. Before retirement, Art taught 7th and 8th grade math while Norma worked her way up from volunteer to Director of the Literacy Volunteers of Clinton County.
And now, they are two of the first people to take part in Senior Planet’s licensing program. Senior Planet licensing structure works with community-based organizations to develop local trainers to deliver Senior Planet’s proprietary curriculum and bring Senior Planet’s world-class programs to older adults in their area.
We spoke with Norma and Art about how they aren’t only delivering free tech classes – they are re-building their rural community after a difficult and isolating period of history.
You both clearly have a passion for education. Where does that come from?
Norma: I grew up in the Philippines and our family didn’t have anything. Education was considered a way out of poverty. My parents were passionate about it– four of the five of us siblings were able to attend college.
Senior Planet has helped us to work in the direction of the dream that we have for the community.
Art: It’s a value that we’ve seen through our own personal experience. And it’s interesting I think how our families paralleled. My parents are both French Canadian and had minimal education. My mother stayed home because she had 13 children and my father was a carpenter that worked for basically minimum salary his whole life.
How did you end up bringing Senior Planet to your local library?
Art: When our local library, the Mooers Free Library, lost its Executive Director for the second time in two months, Norma and two other ladies said they would work on the directorship if it was not full-time. So, the library hired three co-directors!
Norma and I were familiar with Senior Planet and had spent two years of COVID taking online classes. We saw firsthand how much it had helped. Like what I had learned with Zoom! My 83 year-old brother had three heart surgeries and I was able to get him on Zoom to meet with his doctor.
In January of this year, Norma saw the email that Senior Planet was interested in moving into local libraries. And it took her all of ten seconds to say “yes, we’ll do it.”
It’s not all about technology, but about how technology can be used to improve the quality of our lives.
Norma: Our library was looking for a program that would draw the Senior population and I said this is it. The curriculum is there, the opportunity is here.
What do you think the Senior Planet Licensing Programs can offer a community like yours?
Art: I think Senior Planet has really helped us to work in the direction of the dream that we have for the community. We’re very rural – there’s no public transportation and the winters are very long. The technology that Senior Planet can bring to Seniors is so important to this type of location because it removes a lot of the isolation.
That’s part of the dream. The other part of the dream is that it gets seniors into the library. And the library, like a public school, is a place of community gathering and pride. We’re hoping that the library will be that place for seniors.
Norma: Now that we have Senior Planet as a core program, I wrote a mini grant from the Office of Aging in Clinton County for a program we’re calling “Technology, Coffee and Conversations” as an extension of the technology course. Now people are asking for a guest genealogy speaker and for a gardening club – we hear what people want because they are physically here and talking with each other.
Senior Planet for us is all about relating to other adults and sharing this opportunity to learn. It’s not all about technology, but about how technology can be used to improve the quality of our lives.
Interest in bringing Senior Planet programming to your community? Click here to learn more about the Senior Planet Licensing Program.
Pam Hugi is Senior Planet’s Community and Advocacy Manager. Based in Brooklyn, she runs Senior Planet’s Supporter program in addition to being a contributing writer for this site. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.