A peek in a typical Citrus Valley High School classroom might be a familiar sight: teens scribbling notes as their teacher solves a linear equation or analyzes “The Great Gatsby.” But in the Cyber Seniors classroom, things look a little different.
This winter, Kaye Beechum joined fellow residents from Plymouth Village, a continuing care retirement community in Redlands, California, twice a week and headed across town to learn from Citrus Valley students about technology.
“I wasn’t a raw beginner. I have a computer, but there were a few more things I wanted to learn,” says Beechum. “I just like to keep learning new things whenever I can.”
The six-week program paired seniors like Beechum with high school students to cover everything from computer basics and Google searches, to how to take a selfie. For the final two classes, the teens joined their senior students at Plymouth Village.
“I needed to know how to set up my iPad and my iPhone and do some transferring of things, and these kids are really great,” says resident Lloyd Howard. “They’ve encouraged us to do further things. It was motivational.”
Not only did the residents learn about new technology, the program also offered an opportunity for the teens to develop their communication skills.
“Repetition is key. You have to explain yourself clearly,” says high school student Kyle Penna. “I had done a little bit of tutoring. This was on a much different level. It was fun and exciting to see how much they progressed.”
Among older adults age 65 and older, 62 percent own a desktop or laptop computer while only 22 percent own a smartphone, according to Pew Research Center. Roughly three out of four older adults say they would need someone’s help to learn how to use new digital devices.
“Kids don’t realize how much they know,” says Greg Minton, a Citrus Valley teacher who coordinated the Cyber Seniors program with colleague Rosalba Schessler. “That bridge that they formed was invaluable.”
Above all, the students and teachers have gained something greater than teaching or technology instruction — they’ve forged bonds with people from different walks of life.
“The most rewarding thing is the actual personal connection we made with our participants,” says Penna. “My senior has gone through so many experiences that I haven’t been through.”
It was inspiring to see how much is left to come in his own life, he says. And the Plymouth Village residents are just as happy to see the opportunities sitting on the horizon for the students.
“These young people have really got a bright, beautiful future here in the world of technology, and I think it’s beautiful that they want to share that,” says Beechum.