Tech Buddies

Tech-Buddies: Help Seniors to Use Computers & Mobile Devices

By Judie Holcomb-Pack

Help Seniors to Use Computers & Mobile Devices

When Susan Meny, Vital Living Director of the Shepherd’s Center, had a problem with her phone, she handed it to a kid who tap-tap-tapped and voila! It was fixed! That gave her an idea – what do seniors do when they have questions about technology and no kids to turn to? Wouldn’t it be nice to have an “adopted” grandson or granddaughter to turn to when you have a question about your computer or mobile device? But where would they find these “grandkids?”

Susan then thought about Crosby Scholars, a college access program for middle and high school students in Forsyth County. Crosby Scholars must attend academies and volunteer a minimum of two hours of community service to stay active in the program. They have many students who do hundreds of hours of community service. During the 2014-15 school year, their students reported more than 104,000 hours of community service!

Susan contacted Crosby Scholars, pitched her idea, and the first Tech Buddies event was held at the Shepherd’s Center in February. The first time out was a huge success!

Seniors came with all kinds of devices and questions. Nancy Patterson had received an Amazon Fire for Christmas and she wanted to learn about all the things it could do. Her son told her it would replace her computer, but Nancy wasn’t sure. “I miss my computer!” she lamented, but with the help of Matthew Taylor, a 9th grade student at Mt. Tabor and Nicholas Ottati, a junior at West Forsyth, she learned how to use several functions, including how to increase the size of the keyboard to make it easier to use. (Hint: Go to settings, display, font size.) Nicholas also told Nancy she could purchase a keyboard to use with her tablet using a blue tooth app.

In another room Matthew Bezerra, a junior at Reagan High School, was helping Jerrie Bradshaw with her Galaxy tablet, a gift she received for Christmas. When asked what she needed help with, she exclaimed, “All of it!” Matthew patiently went through various uses and helped her download an app so she could read books on her tablet.
Mandie Elhadidy, a junior at West Forsyth, helped Bettie Linville learn how to use the features on her phone. She was particularly interested in taking and sharing pictures.

Matthew Hill came with his little brother and ended up being called into service to help Virginia Roberson, who was having problems with popups on her laptop. Matthew discovered she had several viruses, so after deleting those, he showed her some other things she could do on her computer. Matthew cautioned her to be careful when downloading files from a website and to see if there are any boxes that are checked which would allow you to receive information from the site. Always uncheck these boxes unless you are sure this is information you want to receive. He also advised that Google Chrome has an ad blocker and virus protection, which he recommended to Virginia.

Brandon Fulton, a 9th grader at Glenn High, helped Pat Shouse who said, “I desperately need help with this computer!” Around the room, other seniors were connecting with students and getting help on everything from smart phones to computers. One group was learning how to use the Internet to make hotel and flight reservations.

Riley LaFratta, a student at East Forsyth, was so helpful to Sue Palas that she “adopted” her as a granddaughter, and they exchanged phone numbers and email addresses so that Sue could contact her if she needed additional help. “I have a grandson, but he lives away. So I am ‘adopting’ Riley!”

During the event, connections between seniors and teens continued to be made. One student got permission to park his car in a driveway across from Mount Tabor – he would never have had such an opportunity without the connection made at Tech Buddies. Another pair found out they were both from the same small town in Michigan.

This was exactly what Susan had hoped to accomplish – connecting students with seniors to teach them about technology – one-on-one. The collaboration between the Shepherd’s Center and Crosby Scholars was a perfect match. The first Tech Buddies was so successful that Susan plans to hold another one on April 2 from 1 – 3 p.m. at the Shepherd’s Center.
If you are bewildered by all the apps and gadgets that are supposed to make our lives easier, plan to attend the next Tech Buddies. Maybe you can “adopt a grandchild” for a day!

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