By the end of today, up to 80 local seniors will have an easier time doing live video chats with their relatives and sharing their family photos online, thanks to a program from the Coastal Community Foundation.

The program, designed to build confidence and competence on the Internet, is sponsored by Google and is being offered at the Lowcountry Senior Center.

“The goal is to teach seniors how they can be savvy, or savvier, online, and when they’re online they can also be safe,” said Lilyn Hester, Southeast public affairs manager for Google, which has a data center in Berkeley County.

It’s all part of the company’s community outreach. Since coming to the Lowcountry in 2008, Google has awarded more than $648,000 to local schools and nonprofits.

The good news is today’s program is free. If there is any bad news, it’s that the program is full.

Safety first

It’s certainly timely in light of the state’s recent computer security breach, but that’s purely coincidental, said Tina Arnoldi, director of information management for the Coastal Community Foundation. Arnoldi will lead one of today’s sessions.

“It was something we started talking to them about a month or two ago,” she said.

But Internet safety is certainly top of mind, or should be, for South Carolina residents in particular.

“The sad thing is that the seniors are often the ones that are taken for a ride,” Arnoldi said.

So in her session, she’ll be explaining why it’s not a good idea to click on links in unsolicited emails, for instance.

Of course it’s a chance for Google to showcase its platform and products, like its social network, Google+, and its video chat feature, Hangout, which lets up to 10 people participate in a video chat at once. Those things will be covered in the afternoon session. The morning session is more of a basic skills lab.

One other key thing that will be covered is how to get photos off the computer and onto the desktop, which was a request made at a similar event Google sponsored in North Carolina.

All those things are good skills. And demystifying the Internet is a good goal.

Online community

A Pew Internet Project study released earlier this year on older adults and Internet use showed that more than half of adults over age 65 are online. A survey from AARP released in October showed that the primary reason for adults 50 and older to use social networking is to stay in touch with their friends and family.

It’s Arnoldi’s goal to replicate today’s program at other senior centers throughout the area. It seems the interest is certainly there.

With family members separated by miles and sometimes by oceans, it’s more important than ever to find ways to stay connected.

Remember those AT&T commercials in the 1980s, urging you to reach out and touch someone? Well, that’s both easier and more difficult now. The tools are there, but they’re no good if you don’t know how to use them.

And that’s what makes things like today’s sessions so helpful.

Reach Melanie Balog at 937-5565 or mbalog@post