For many seniors, using computers and the Internet can be intimidating. But neither has to be. There are programs and services out there to help take your initial fears away and become comfortable with both.
One key thing to remember is that it really is quite hard to “break” your computer! So why not give it a try? If you don’t have a home computer, your local library will have one you can use, free of charge.
In 2009, a group of high school students in Toronto started a project where they would teach seniors on a one-on-one basis the basics of using a home computer, setting up an email account, and surfing the Internet. Who better to teach this than young people who had never known the world before computers?
This project had many meaningful results for both the teenaged instructors and the senior students. The seniors gained confidence in their newfound skills, were able to reach out to friends and loved ones over email and even on Skype, and discovered that access to information was at their fingertips at a time when perhaps they are less mobile physically than they once were. The secondary school students found they had learned just as much from their pupils as they were able to teach and they discovered the joy of volunteering and seeing the difference they could make in someone’s life. Imagine helping someone Skype with a family member in another part of the world for the first time or showing them how to open an email attachment photo of their grandchild?
What started as a one-off school project has now grown to include students from several Toronto area schools working regularly with a number of Toronto seniors’ residences and seniors’ centres. Let’s hope it continues to grow and expand!
This program got the attention of a pair of documentary filmmakers who are now taking it to the next level as they pair up seniors with young instructors, following along the learning process with their cameras. They have also encouraged seniors to actively participate with new technology by creating YouTube videos and sponsoring a seniors’ video contest. The Cyber Senior Documentary is scheduled to be released sometime in 2012.
The Cyber Seniors Project has also created this comprehensive yet easy to follow guide, available for free online.
The guide offers clear instructions on the basics of using a computer, setting up an email account and browsing the Internet. It’s a great tool to help get someone started!