At 86, this Cliffside Park retiree teaches computer classes – NorthJersey.com
When George Vislocky of Cliffside Park retired from IBM after 38 years, the then-62-year-old systems engineer had little idea what he’d do next. “I thought I’d take courses at Fairleigh Dickinson University, but it wasn’t fulfilling,” Vislocky said. He looked around for volunteer opportunities but “couldn’t find a place,” he said, that was right for him.
One day he saw a teeny newspaper ad that proclaimed that a new computer center at the Jewish Community Center in Tenafly (today called the Kaplen JCC on the Palisades) was looking for volunteer instructors and coaches to teach “seniors” – students over 50.
That was 20 years ago, and Vislocky, today 86 years old, is still teaching computer skills at the JCC, as a volunteer.
“I come every weekday,” said the great-grandfather of four, who instructs groups of up to 12 students in basic computer skills and gives one-on-one tutorials. And, if needed, repairs computers.
“When I first started here,” said Vislocky, “I was not only a coach but a one-man IT department. I helped install computers and fix ’em, too.”
There aren’t many 86-year-olds who can repair computers, work a mouse, manage digital files, navigate the Internet, master digital spreadsheets, copy and paste digital text or store and save digital documents. Vislocky is among the few. After all, he’s been working with computers longer than most anyone — in 1956 he was trained on IBM’s 650 Magnetic Drum Data Processing Machine, one of the company’s early computers and the world’s first mass-produced computer. “It was 5 feet tall and needed to be in an air-conditioned room,” he said.
He kept being trained throughout his tenure at IBM. “I spent my life going to classes,” he said. “I had to learn the new equipment.”
Now he’s teaching computer skills to men and women “mostly of retirement age,” to those who want to find work where computer know-how is required, to others who want to keep in touch with their families, and to still others who simply want to know what their grandchildren are so fixated by.
“I’m doing my mitzvahs,” said the easygoing, easy-to-smile Russian Orthodox churchgoer, using the Hebrew word for good deed. (Thanks to his volunteerism, he’s learned quite a few Hebrew words and has become a fan of klezmer music.)
“Grandparents are getting iPads from their kids so that they can get on Facebook,” Vislocky said. He himself is not on Facebook. “My wife is, so I look at hers,” he said.
His students are all eager to learn. But some, he said, have trouble seeing well, others hearing well, still others remembering. “Those are the challenges we have,” he said. And too many are intimidated by computers.
“I tell them don’t be afraid of the computer,” he said. “If you want to learn, learn. But they are afraid they’ll look stupid.”
They needn’t fear.
“George is an amazing teacher,” said Bonnie Miller of Cliffside Park, who has taken approximately 10 individual lessons with Vislocky. A former legal recruiter, Miller is currently looking for work. “He is a master at this,” she said. “He is patient, he is knowledgeable. Thanks to him, I know what I’m doing now.”
Sixty-three-year-old Helen Katz of Englewood took two courses with Vislocky. “He knows the computer inside and out,” she said. “He is engaging, patient, very good.” Today, thanks to her new computer skills, she said, “I’m selling and marketing real estate” more efficiently.
Yes, he loves it: “I’m not here for money. Giving is fulfilling.”
Yes, he feels rewarded: “I feel happy helping people.”
Vislocky believes he needs the center more than the center needs him.
“It’s keeping me alive,” he declared.