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Aging with a Digital Connection

Local specialist guides seniors through the social network maze.

“In today’s world, what is available via the Internet enriches a life on every level you can imagine.”

-- Cherie Lejeune

There’s a digital revolution blowing through Fairfax County and Vienna resident Cherie Lejeune is fanning it. And it’s not the tech-savvy young ones Lejeune is reaching out to now … it is the aging population who will use social media and networking software to maintain social networks and family relationships. From “seeing” the grandchildren living a distance away or checking in with community supporters, Lejeuen said that Facebook and tools such as Skype open lifetime opportunities.

“In today’s world, what is available via the Internet enriches a life on every level you can imagine.”

Older people, Lejeune said, usually have grown children and grandchildren. Skype, or facetime, opens a visual world to participants. Family and friends can see each other and communicate with them through facetime.

TO REACH her target audience, seniors, Lejeune fine-tuned her brand of instruction and direction, calling it High Performance Aging (HPA), the child of Digiboom and a nod to enhancing and making the most of senior years.

“I’m never going to be an old lady,” said Lejeune. “The truth is that aging is an attitude.

“Your attitude, your outlook, is at the core of high performance aging.”

Addressing a “full-on” digital revolution, Lejeune says her goals for 2013 are three-fold. She hopes to create total digital access for older adults, means of access to tools such as recycled computers and tablets, and training for individuals who commit time to make the digital experience easier for “special” older adults.

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Cherie Lejeune brings seniors into digital age.

She characterizes HPA as an intergenerational approach to aging in an honest way.

“The core is education and motivation,” said Lejeune. “You continue to learn and be motivated because you have access to information through your fingertips, 24/7.” She emphasized the inclusion of nutrition and exercise as essential elements of high performance aging.

As part of her new branding, Lejeune specializes in one-to-one hands-on training. She goes to the home of her trainee—and family members or caregivers are welcome to learn along—and, first, assesses the trainee’s computer and its Internet connections. Once the computer is camera-ready, Lejeune helps download Skype or a similar program, all of which are free of charge. Alternative devices include Apple’s Factime and Android-compatible software tools.

Lejeune said she brings all her “toys” – IPad, netbook, smartphone and laptop with her to show her trainees all the platforms that are available to make digital living reality.

“The next thing I do is ask, ‘who would you like to communicate with?’”

She takes her senior clients shopping for equipment, if they like, showing them what is available from laptops to tablets and smartphones.

VIENNA RESIDENT Michael Amouri is concerned about the social isolation of his elderly aunt, living in Washington, D.C. He appreciates the value of tools such as Skype offer. His aunt, a 93-year-old who was still on a dance floor at 89, is slowing down, losing contact with her peers. Amouri drives into Washington, D.C. to bring her to Vienna for social interaction, but wishes she had social media at her disposal. Something easy for her to master. He is looking into digital equipment and software for her.

“I just think it would allow her to have the social contact she wouldn’t have, such as family time.”

Ever since she was a young girl, her mother used to bring her to nursing homes to visit relatives living there. She always felt at-ease communicating with the elderly, and has translated that facility to working with them in multiple arenas.

“I stay connected so I don’t get disconnected,” said Lejeune.

Lejeune has been active in the Vienna-Oakton community since moving to the area eight years ago. She delivers Meals on Wheels, volunteers with the Shepherd Center of Oakton-Vienna, and organizes community events, particularly events and projects focusing on the senior population.

“Every time I’m with people, I can measure my success,” Lejeune said.

For more details on High Performance Aging and its instructional one-on-one workshops, e-mail Cherie Lejeune at ctlejeune@highperformanceaging.com. See www.facebook.com/ClubDigiBoom to learn more about the inspiration for High Performance Aging.