Email a daily godsend for local nonagenarian

? Conversation possible after loss of hearing.

Amanda Ewert types another email from her room at Parkside Homes. A few days away from her 95th birthday, Ewert continues daily conversations with family and friends via the Internet after losing her hearing some 20 years ago. Courtesy photo by Rachel Behrends

Amanda Ewert hasn?t let the loss of hearing keep her from communicating with family and friends.

The retired church secretary, who is closing in on her 95th birthday, has made email conversation part of her daily routine from the comfort of her room at Parkside Homes in Hills?boro.

?It?s kind of unusual to have someone who?s almost 95 emailing,? said daughter Eldora Penner, who lives in McPherson. ?Since she?s had her falls and things, she?s slowed down as far as emailing. But we still hear from her every single morning.?

Daughter Rachel Behrends of Kansas City, Mo., said email has been a godsend that fills the communication void created by the loss of Ewert?s hearing during her 80s.

?For several years we could not call and talk to Mom because she could no longer hear us on the phone,? Behrends said. ?It was hard not being able to communicate with her except for writing letters.?

In the late 1990s, Behrends? husband, Steve, hatched an idea.

?He had an extra computer and said he was going to teach her how to do emails,? Rachel said. ?So we took it to her at Christmas four months before she turned 80 years old. She could still hear well enough to follow his instructions.?

Every time the Behrends visited Ewert, the lessons continued.

?At her 80th (birthday celebration), she announced to everyone, ?I can email!? Penner said. ?It?s just been her world. She lip-reads, and now she?s connected so many people, like nieces and nephews, with forwards.?

Ewert?s email correspondence hasn?t been limited to family and a few friends.

?Mom has had an unusual ability to relate to people of different ages, cultures and backgrounds,? said son Al Ewert, who lives in Wichita. ?That has been shown by her network.

?It has been amazing to see the number of people she has communicated with over the years,? he added. ?That has been a reflection of her personality for all over her years.?

Amanda Ewert?s personality was a key asset during her 23 years as office secretary for the Hillsboro Menno?nite Brethren Church, not to mention the excellent typing skills she developed well before the rise of computers.

Following her retirement in 1984, Ewert was able to maintain connections through normal conversation. She lost most of her hearing during the 1990s.

?It was hard for Mom to be in groups because she could not hear the conversations,? Penner said. ?Mom played piano by ear and quit playing because she couldn?t hear the music.?

Ewert has encountered a variety of physical setbacks along the way.

?Three and a half years ago she fell and broke her right arm,? Behrends said. ?Since then, she hasn?t been able to use that hand. Now she types with one finger. We talk about the power of one finger and how she communicates with one finger. The emails are shorter, but we get to hear how she is doing.?

Penner said, ?Mom has always told us, ?I don?t want to complain, I want to keep a good attitude.??

For Amanda Ewert, communication goes both ways. Email is the way she finds out news about her family and friends as well as her community.

?When she wakes up, she can?t wait to get to her computer and read her emails,? Behrends said. ?If she didn?t have a computer, there is no way we would be able to hear from her. We love getting her emails, and look for them every morning.?

Ewert?s family expressed gratitude for everyone who helped Amanda with her computer issues during her time at Salem Home and now Park?side.

?When the computer doesn?t work, it is hard for Mom to be out of touch with family,? Penner said

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