After two months, Jennifer Dancu started to feel the creeping panic set in. The COVID-19 pandemic brought her business to a screeching halt. The thought occurred to her that she might have to get a job elsewhere in the meantime, having no idea when she could get back to business again.
Then the phone calls started coming in. “We need your help, we need it now, we’ll wear masks, we’ll do this safely” were the messages from clients desperate for her services. Everything was going virtual, and her customers needed to learn how to do it. Thankfully for her, her services are considered essential, teaching people how to use today’s technology.
In 2015, Dancu launched Social Media 4 Seniors, providing both classes and private instruction for those 55 and older learning how to navigate smart phones, apps and social media platforms. While COVID restrictions have taken classes off the shelf for the time being, she and her staff are back to serving clients in their homes, with everyone wearing masks, and no one touches anyone’s phone or tablet unless absolutely necessary. “It’s better for them to do it themselves, anyway,’ she said, adding that the focus of instruction has definitely shifted.
“We’re doing a lot of instruction on how to use Zoom, Skype, Google,” Dancu said. “So many things that can keep them connected are on platforms they didn’t know how to use. The isolation of this pandemic, especially for seniors, is very real. These apps help them connect to family and friends, and to participate in church, book clubs, community meetings, what have you.” She added that there’s also been more lessons in using medical patient portals but not as much increase in helping clients navigate telehealth as she anticipated.
A native of Pittsburgh, Dancu, 50, is a lifelong educator, holding a bachelor’s degree in elementary education and a master’s degree in educational administration, leadership & supervision. She has been a teacher and principal, from elementary school to college, in public and private schools for 19 years. She is still a clinical supervisor for Western Governors University, an online non-profit university, handling 5-8 students each semester.
“I love to teach,” she said. “I love to sit back and watch people learn, to see that lightbulb go off in their head when they get it.” She laughingly noted that she’s been told she has the “patience of Job” because teaching neophytes how to safely traverse social media is much like “teaching reading to first graders. You have to go slow. This is still a whole new world to a lot of people.”
Dancu operates out of her home in Farragut. She said she has picked up new private clients over the past four months, but is looking forward to the day classes can resume again. “We teach at the West Knox Senior Center, the Karns Senior Center, the O’Connor Senior Center and the Everett Senior Center. We also do monthly Q&A sessions at the Villages of Farragut and Asbury Place in Maryville,” she said.
In the meantime, Social Media 4 Seniors can be found across a broad range of platforms. Tips on best grocery apps or how to order dinner and pay with a phone are among the topics that can be found on the company’s website with more info on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter or Pinterest. And if you can’t access these sites, well, that’s a reason to phone Jennifer Dancu.
Beth Kinnane is a freelance writer and thoroughbred bloodstock agent.