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At 92 and blind, oldest JobSource client learns to adapt

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Updated: June 5, 2013 6:02AM



SCHERERVILLE — You are never too old to learn.

Clelia Ginay knows that better than anyone. In the fall, when she was in her early 90s, she learned to use adaptive computer equipment after she lost her vision.

The computer talks to her, giving her prompts to check and send email, go on the Internet, play games and bring up addresses and phone numbers, among other functions.

Ginay, who served as a nurse in the Navy during World War II, was introduced to the equipment through Opportunity Enterprises’ JobSource program. At 92, she is the oldest of the 200-some clients who receive services each month.

“Since the fall, the Veterans Administration has given Mrs. Ginay the opportunity to learn new things and get equipment to live alone,” said Pam White, an assistive technology professional with JobSource. The VA channels funds for the program and the equipment through JobSource.

On a recent Tuesday, White met with Ginay for their weekly, two-hour instructional session. Ginay had never used a computer before she received the adaptive equipment.

She has learned to use email to contact her sons, who live in Chicago and Muncie, and also enjoys playing games; she had a crossword puzzle about state capitols up on the screen.

“It gives you instructions right along but I can’t talk to it because when I get frustrated, I like to get an answer,” she said with a laugh, echoing a common complaint of computer users everywhere.

Ginay’s path to visual impairment was a slow one. At age 53, she was diagnosed with macular degeneration. Over time, she received special glasses and even a reading machine, and went through a rehabilitation program at the Edward Hines Jr. VA Hospital in Chicago.

In July, she completely lost the vision in her right eye, possibly because of a transient ischemic attack, or minor stroke. She can make out light and dark in her left eye.

Not long after that, JobSource stepped in with the computer, which helps Ginay maintain her independence. White travels to businesses and private homes across the region to teach people with disabilities how to use adaptive equipment, whether it’s for daily living skills or maintaining a job.

Ginay admitted she was reluctant to get the computer at first and even resisted.

“I said, I’m too old to learn on it,” she said.

If anything, Ginay has proved the opposite. She relies on the computer for reminders and to take notes on her health, and learned to go on the Internet a couple of months ago.

Ginay said as she’s lost her sight, she’s tried to keep up with the world around her through the different aids available to her.

A computer is just the next logical step.

“Technology has changed since the 1980s and 1990s. Cell phones can read out loud,” White said, “and there is a lot of computer software for reading out loud.”

Ginay is originally from New York. Her husband, John, was from East Chicago, and the two met while they were both serving in the Navy, when Ginay was stationed at Fort Eustis in Virginia.

“He was one of my patients — what else?” she said.

They eventually settled in this area, where her husband was a math and science teacher, and later a guidance director and principal, in the East Chicago schools. After Ginay had her sons, she worked at St. Catherine Hospital, though she and John arranged their schedule so their children were never home alone.

John died in 2004, three months short of the couple’s 60th wedding anniversary.

But Ginay perseveres, joking that each year from now on she should get a year younger on her birthday, instead of a year older. She admits to occasional loneliness — “I’m the last leaf on the tree everywhere I look” — but also knows the computer allows her better contact with her sons and the outside world than she would have otherwise.

She looks forward to her weekly visits with White, and the new skills she learns each time. “She pushes me,” Ginay said.

“You just have to have the right mindset and you can do it. And the right instructor,” Allison Thomas, OE’s marketing and communications manager, told Ginay.

“Absolutely,” Ginay replied, “and you have to have a lot of patience.”



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