Teens help older adults learn how to use technology — and make friends along the way

Brookdale Senior Living residents have a wealth of wisdom, but there are some gaps in that knowledge. Most notably: How does a cell phone work?

Everything from turning on devices to receiving emails to finding relevant applications caused problems for the population, until a group of computer experts Gen-Zers came in with a plan to save the day.

A few years ago, some students at Canterbury School in Fort Myers, Florida, were joking about how bad their grandparents were with technology, and when the laughter died down, Aaron Smallar struck with an idea.

CLEO volunteers come over once a week, to the delight of the residents.

Steve Hartmann / On the Road

Smolyar was developed with friends Christian Laquis and Derrick Hueniken Cleo, which stands for “awareness by teaching computer skills”. They tried to partner with Brookdale, but no email was answered, so the intrepid teens went to the center – which is right next door to their school.

“It was before we could drive, so we took a walk after school,” Smolyar said.

They have been volunteering ever since, showing seniors how to communicate using technology. Brookdale resident Jonathan Smith said he couldn’t figure out how to send a photo text until one of Cleo’s kids showed it to him.

Volunteers also helped Nancy Kirkpatrick clear her inbox, which was full of emails – over 122,000 unread messages.

A volunteer helps Nancy Kirkpatrick clean out her inbox.

Steve Hartmann / On the road

The residents called the children everything from “amazing” to “a blessing,” praising the “great bunch” for all they did.

The group comes once a week and, in addition to solving technical problems, they build relationships with the residents, which means that the connection continues even when the devices go dark, proving that, as a communication tool, smartphones always work better. on.

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