Although I often take it for granted, there is no doubt I’ve benefitted from growing up in the digital age. I’ve been swiping and tapping since I was at least 10. But our community and family members in older generations have not had this luxury. For many, using a smartphone is as foreign to them as using a typewriter is to me.
Since last year, students like me who are part of the Alabama Association of the Family, Career and Community Leaders of America have been working with AT&T, the Alabama Department of Senior Services and the Alabama Department of Education to bring smartphone and tablet trainings to seniors across the state and to develop a curriculum for those trainings.
This year, through our FCCLA chapter at Arab High School, I had the opportunity to work with Lucy, a 97 year old senior. She attended almost every technology training session at my high school and just received her program certificate – my favorite success of the year! Whether it was learning how to take selfies, using FaceTime to connect with family and friends or being active on Facebook, Lucy’s work ethic and commitment to the program only increased my passion to help her and others. And yet, at the end of the day what was most touching, was her sharing at ‘graduation’ how proud her family is of her new communication skills.
The more involved I got in the trainings and the more I worked with Lucy, the more I came to understand that being able to use a phone isn’t just about sending emails or checking Facebook. It’s about being able to connect with people that you can’t always visit or being able to accomplish tasks on your own, that you used to need assistance with.
We’ve all heard we can learn so much from older generations and that couldn’t be truer. Whether it is sharing life stories and morals or learning the values of the simple things, my relationship with Lucy has given me a totally different perspective on life. And, our younger generation has something to offer too. It is incumbent upon us to help older generations learn how to use technology that can both improve their quality of life and enable them to stay connected with all of us, and pass along that lifetime of information and guidance.
Seeing the joy that this program brings to all of its participants, young and old has been an incredibly heartwarming and rewarding experience and I hope more communities across the country will be able to take part in this program for many years to come. Even if you’re not in Alabama, there are plenty of resources out there to help train seniors, including AT&T’s Digital You website and tip sheets from the OASIS Connections program.