Training Seniors for the Digital Revolution, one Facebook profile at a time

By Sarah Graham, Communications Specialist, Connected Nation

Here at Connected Nation, we are always on the lookout for cool and telling stories of the digital revolution. In an article in today’s Wall Street Journal, we found one.

The article, Teens Take Elders to Tech Boot Camp, outlined some unique programs training seniors in the ways of the Internet, technology, and social media.

Take for example Pace University’s service-learning program that sends students to retirement communities to teach residents online skills.

Not only do the students show the seniors how to use e-mail and Facebook, but the program gives the Millennials — defined as those aged 18 to 33 — the ability to experience what it means to function in a world foreign to technology.

According to the article, “students practice using computers wearing Vaseline-smeared sunglasses and cotton balls in their ears, with two of their fingers taped together.” This is a form of sensitivity training, said Jean Coppola, an associate professor who runs the Pace program.

Also, with the article, is an ever-true video of Virginia Clarkson, 83, and her senior-friendly cell phone. Check it out here. She’s funny.



At Connected Nation and our state-based initiatives, we have long been working to encourage seniors’ entrance to the digital world. We have written about it on our blog, Project GOAL Aims at Getting Grandparents Online (CN blog, April 2010) and have seen statistical examples of the significant lag that still exists.

For example, in Kansas, our Connect Kansas Residential Technology Assessment survey found that only 58 percent of the survey participants over 65 used the Internet. Comparatively, 97 percent of 18 to 34 year olds surveyed did.

More importantly, we have seen the power new technology and digital literacy plays in our family’s and friends’ lives.

My own mother went from using dial-up Internet to an Iphone in just six short months, mostly due to the needs of her teenaged and 20-something children. Now, she texts more than me!

Jay Houston, a project manager for Connected Nation, uses Skype to speak and (maybe more amusingly) “see” her father who spends his winters in Florida. Houston said her father always has the funniest faces when he “calls” on Skype.

“He doesn’t realize that I can take a snapshot and send it to my friends,” she said. However, she said, he would certainly get a kick out of the fact that she does this. “I come by it honestly,” she said. “He would probably do it to me, if he knew how.”

Related links:

Do you have a story for us? Is there a tech savvy senior out there thanks to you? Let us know!

Project GOAL Aims at Getting Grandparents Online (CN blog, April 2010)

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