While there are significant numbers of seniors who are fearful or intimidated by technology it does not mean they are not interested in getting connected stupid or unable to connect.

A few days ago I published an article titled AARP Thinks I am Too Stupid to Use a Real Computer where I expressed my dismay that AARP would suggest that somehow people who are aged 50 and older are not capable of using current state-of-the-art computers and tablets. The article sparked a lively debate with many people agreeing with me, but a few feeling I was either too hard on AARP or just plain wrong.

A Better Way . . . the Right Way

With the AARP story as a backdrop I came across this video over the weekend:

The Back Story

Two sisters, Macaulee (16) and Kascha Cassaday (18) saw their grandparents lives changed through the use of technology and access to the internet. The grandparents began using email, Skype and Facebook to connect with family and friends.

The sisters were inspired to start the Cyber-Senior program that would connect tech savvy teens with seniors who were overwhelmed by or fearful of technology. They created a training manual and recruited friends to visit a local retirement home a couple of times per week to teach interested seniors how to use the internet. The teens found residents had a variety of areas of interest. Pretty much everyone wanted to use email. Others wanted to be on Facebook and play games. The program has since continued to expand and includes a 75-minute entertaining, informative and, most importantly, inspiring documentary film.

More Practical

While there are significant numbers of seniors who are fearful or intimidated by technology it does not mean they are not interested in getting connected, stupid or unable to connect.  What these teens found was that just two things were needed:

  • Telling stories about the benefits of technology and how other seniors had successfully learned to use computers and tablets.
  • Someone with a willingness to teach.

Plugging In

I reached out to Brenda Rusnak, the film’s producer primarily to ask how senior living communities can plug into this great intergenerational movement. She pointed me to a number of resources on the Cyber-Seniors Learning Center including a Mentor Handbook (this link will download a pdf) and Participant Handbook  (also a pdf download).

You can also purchase a DVD of the film with several different licensing schemes and pricing. The only one that is on the website is the educators’ package which costs $325.00.  There also apparently is a one-time-use license where you can show the film to the community for around $150.

I honestly wish the price were more reasonable because I think it is a program that could benefit almost every single senior living community. However, even though the $325 is a steep price, it could well be worth it to get a program started at your community. The best place to start is to head to the Learning Center website’s Get Involved Page.  Here you will find a longer version of the video you can download and play for seniors or teens and a downloadable community outreach toolkit.

Finally there are a limited number of sponsored screenings around North America that are free or low cost. You can check out the schedule here.

Steve Moran