Digital Connections Get Personal on These Special Days

Feb 17, 2015

Alex, a teen volunteer, regularly visits with Anne to help her stay digitally connected. Since her stroke, Anne has had difficulty remembering things, especially passwords for online accounts and her email. Alex shows her how to use the Reminder App on her iPhone, which provides an easy and convenient way for Anne to always have access to her passwords.

stock_teen_teaching_senior_on_computer_blog.jpgYoung people and older adults benefit from volunteer projects that bring them together.

The YouthSERVE program at the Volunteer Center of Santa Cruz County, which connected Alex and Anne, recognizes that as “digital natives” young people are the perfect candidates for helping seniors learn how to better connect with online technology.

The program coordinates monthly technology workshops – Senior Tech Days – during which seniors are invited to drop in and receive one-on-one training with teen tutors. The workshops open the potentially daunting online world to seniors while giving youth a chance to practice communication and leadership skills. 

“To me teaching is something that not only helps others but also is the best way for me to learn,” says Suresh, a youth volunteer and senior tech leader with the program. A senior who has participated in the program adds, "I am impressed with the youth, not only about their skills and knowledge, but also the politeness, patience, and respect and eagerness to help out.”

The Volunteer Center of Santa Cruz has expanded the program with the help of a JPMorgan Chase grant focused on innovation, which the center won at the 2014 Conference on Volunteering and Service.

Participants still bring in their own smartphones, tablets, laptops and even full desktop systems, but the center now has its own equipment, too. The center has been offering Senior Tech Days in four locations since 2011 and expects to expand to three more in 2015. 

A new documentary demonstrates the possibilities such programs by focusing on a similar project called Cyber-Seniors. In 2009, high school students and sisters Macaulee and Kascha Cassaday started Cyber Seniors to help seniors learn how to use Facebook and Skype to reconnect with grandchildren. Participants demonstrate the ability to learn at any age. Teens and seniors become friends and partners. Youth begin to be lifelong leaders.

To learn more about Senior Tech Days check out the Volunteer Center of Santa Cruz County’s website. You can also request a screening of Cyber-Seniors and learn more about the movie here.

To see the original version of this post, visit the HandsOn Network blog.