What happens when Grandpa finally gives up his flip phone and buys a shiny new iPhone? Often a lot of frustration–but these days, senior citizens are having to get tech-savvy to communicate with their children and keep up with their grandchildren.
Francis Tuttle Technology Center has created an innovative 8-week course that pairs Concordia Life Care Center senior citizens with volunteer students for a weekly hour-and-a-half of customized tech training. The Cyber Seniors course allows students to share their knowledge. For the seniors, it’s like having their own personal “young person” to teach them the basics.
Jim and Destinee
“I got this new cell phone jobbie, but it’s useless since I don’t know how to work the doggone thing,” said senior, Jim Waite. “I don‘t know how to use my pressure cooker, either!” he laughs.
Jim is 90 years old. He’s been working with his teacher, Destinee Martinez, on how to understand his new phone. They are seated in an unused classroom so that they can easily hear each other without distraction. Today, Jim wants to learn about voice messaging.
“This week, I’m taking notes, because my retention is practically zilch–but she hasn’t chewed me out yet,” Jim joked. “She’s been very patient with me.”
Destinee laughs, obviously enjoying his company and his stories about his life as a salesman. “He’s learning about a phone, but I’m learning about his life. That’s pretty special to me,” Destinee said. “I think I’ll go into sales, too.”
John and Daniel
In a different classroom, senior John Martin is looking at an iPad with his teacher, Daniel Luna. Daniel volunteered to help with Cyber Seniors because he likes helping people. Last week, he showed John how to turn his phone on and off, and he set John up on Facebook.
“I’m not sure I want to stay on Facebook,” John said. “All these people keep wanting to be my friend, and I have no idea who these people are.” Daniel grins and explains the process of selecting and de-selecting friends. The two joke as they work. John shares a favorite “funny” that he’s found online, and he shows Daniel some picture posts of his grandkids.
Kenneth and Chasity
In a quiet office nearby, a new senior/student pair are meeting each other for the first time. Kenneth Carmichael signed up for Cyber Seniors in hopes of learning how to do crossword puzzles on his computer. “Only easy ones,” he clarifies. His trainer is Chasity Rincon. Her motivation for volunteering is because her grandpa recently passed away, and she’s seeking to reconnect with the older generation.
Clyde and Chris
Not all of the Cyber Seniors are novices at technology–sometimes they seek to learn advanced skills. In a small computer lab, Clyde Buchanan and Chris Williams are leaning in close together, focused on a computer screen. Chris is showing Clyde how to edit a video, and Clyde is responding with excited exclamations of “cool” and “got it!” Clyde joined Cyber Seniors to learn how to work with audio and video files so that he can help people at the senior living community where he lives.
“We have lots of memory care patients there, so my wife and I put their favorite music on an iPod,” Clyde said. “Sometimes they don’t know their own name, but they can sing the words to all the old songs. That’ll get to you.”
Clyde finds that when loved ones pass away, families often need help editing a compilation of their photos and videos—it’s the skill Chris is helping him learn. Chris was initially “volun-told” to help with Cyber Seniors, but he’s discovered his talent for teaching. “I love serving people, and I love technology. Put those two together, and then teach someone like Clyde, and it’s been an amazing experience.”
Cyber Seniors are gaining valuable technology skills from their personal trainers, but the evidence clearly suggests that these young people are the ones gaining the most knowledge.
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