One of the great pleasures of working with older adults is that they always have a tale to tell — and Home Connect learner John Thompson did not disappoint.
Originally from Texas, John grew up in the era of Kennedy and the Beatles. His father was a tennis champion turned army colonel turned professor of insurance and real estate. (John, though, would rather watch paint dry than teach insurance.) In his mid-20s, John moved up to Connecticut to test the railroads with the Sperry Rail Service. Working from sunup to sundown, he enjoyed the trade but grew tired of the demanding labor. John soon made his way back to Texas to begin his studies in library science.
It was at this point that John began to see the dawning of a digital world. In school, he spent much of his time transferring information to computerized formats. Realizing that everything would change, John decided to go all in. “I kind of saw which companies were going to build the internet,” he reflects. “I saw investment opportunities, took what money I made from the railroad, and started buying Microsoft, Apple, Cisco, and everything else I could throw money at.”
Soon enough, John was working full-time as a day trader in San Francisco. He moved there 35 years ago with his wife at the time — settling into what he describes as “the whole yuppie lifestyle.” After a while, John knew he needed to make a change to pursue a more meaningful life. In the early 2000s, he decided to throw out all his TVs, computers, and phones. Overwhelmed by media and information, he hoped to lead a more analog existence.
A couple of years later, John suffered a heart attack at the age of 55. Though he fully recovered, the experience made him reevaluate his priorities. “The heart attack focused me. I had to stop living in denial about health and just about everything. I had to take certain issues seriously, trim my lifestyle, and focus on my future.”
Over the next decade, John decided it was time to give the internet another try. “Like most mammals with fur, I’m curious,” says John. “I want to see what’s out there. There are some amazing sources online. Brilliant, insightful sources of information … even if it is hard to dig out.”
John discovered CTN through the city of San Francisco’s Department of Disability and Aging Services. He entered our Home Connect program with his own laptop but lacked access to at-home broadband. Through the efforts of CTN’s Jannette Estrada and Al Ho, John received a hotspot device for temporary internet service. He is currently working to get discounted internet service through the Lifeline and Emergency Broadband Benefit programs. While this process has its challenges, John is glad to be reoriented in the digital world through Home Connect.
“I’m very happy with the gentleness,” says John about the program. “I feel like I’m being steeped again … that I’m like a tea bag going into a cup of hot water, and I’m about to become tea. I feel good about it. I recommend patience. You’re not going to know everything all the time, so just remember to not go into a panic if the screen goes blue or something.”
One day, John hopes to see an open-source internet in which information and resources are available to everyone, free of charge. “Put me on a board of idiots,” he jokes. “All us idiots will bang out a bible or something on how to make this free.” In the meantime, however, John is glad to have the support of CTN in his journey to get online. “It’s promising and I’m patient.”