Senior Tech Days Bridge Generational Divide

At HandsOn Network we believe that volunteer service brings people together across the divides of race, income, politics, religion and geography. We like, to focus on what brings us together as people rather than what makes us different. This week we’re proud to highlight an Affiliate that is proving that volunteering can help close generational gaps too. 
The YouthSERVE program at the Volunteer Center of Santa Cruz County 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 where seniors are invited to drop in and receive one-on-one trainings with teen-tutors. The workshops open the daunting online world to seniors while giving youth a chance to practice communication and leadership skills. 
Alex, a volunteer who works regularly with Anne, shows her how to use the Reminder App on her Iphone. Since her stroke, Anne’s had difficulty remembering things, especially passwords for online accounts and her email. The Reminder App provides and easy and convenient way for Anne to always have access to her passwords. Getting help remembering passwords wasn’t the reason Anne came in for help, through their conversations Alex recognized the challenge of memory loss and offered a solution.  
The results of Senior Teach days have been tremendously positive, not only for seniors like Anne, but for the teenagers as well who learn valuable communication and leadership skills.
“I like solving problems and working at Senior Tech Day, I help seniors with their problems using technology” says Suresh, a youth volunteer and Sr. Tech Leader. “I always liked teaching and helping others gain knowledge. To me teaching is something that not only helps others but also is the best way for me to learn.”
The Volunteer Center of Santa Cruz has expanded the program and its impact with the help of a One America Chase Innovative Grant, which they won at the 2014 Conference on Volunteering and Service. Participants still bring in their own iPhones, iPads, laptops and even full desktop systems, but the center now has its own equipment to work with too. The Volunteer Center of Santa Cruz County has been offering Senior Tech Days in 4 locations since 2011 and expects to expand to 3 more locations in 2015. 
A new documentary demonstrates the possibilities with programs like Senior Tech Day by focusing on a similar project called Cyber Seniors. Cyber Seniors was started in 2009 by high school students Macaulee and Kascha Cassaday. Seniors can learn to use Facebook and Skype to reconnect with grandchildren. They can start to believe in their ability to still learn at any age. Teens and seniors become friends and partners. Youth begin to be life long leaders. The results are truly life changing. 
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.