For the First Time

By Nhi Nguyen, linkAges Advocate

Nestled in the busy city of Mountain View lies a quaint, mahogany building set against a backdrop of greenery. This was where my journey as a linkAges Advocate began.

Entering the Mountain View Senior Center for the first time, I was filled with excitement and anticipation. After a thorough week of orientation, I was equipped with knowledge of social determinants of health, motivational interviewing, and computer training. I was ready to live out the linkAges mission, and the last bit of training was about to prove to be very useful.

Ida, an avid gardener and enthusiastic 81 year old, greeted me with a grand smile. Her son had just bought her a Samsung tablet, and she needed help figuring out all the uses. We started small. Turning on the device was our first challenge. Quickly, I discovered that the tablet was drained of battery. This put our technological advances on hiatus.

As the device charged, I took the opportunity to introduce Ida to the linkAges Timebank. After hearing about the possibility of connecting with other members in the community, Ida decided to sign on. I proceeded to give Ida the Timebank orientation, and I could tell that she was getting very excited as she learned more about the program. When she realized that she could to post a request for eBay help, her eyes lit up.

The greatest aspect of the Timebank is the concept of reciprocity. Ida found it fascinating that she could both give and receive through the service exchange program. Being able to offer others knowledge, companionship, and new skills seemed like an fascinating prospect. As a senior, she was excited to contribute to the social good and to feel like a useful member of society.

After a successful sign-up, we turned back to the tablet. Something caught our attention. The year was not 1997. I encouraged Ida to navigate to settings to change the date and time. As Ida clicked on the up and down arrows on the touch screen, she often giggled in amusement. Once we caught up to 2014, we transitioned to email and applications.

Ida was very eager to use the camera. After showing her the front and back lens, I asked Ida to try using the camera herself. She asked for a photo of me, so I indulged. #selfie.

Working with Ida made me aware of the intergenerational gap that I was bridging. As a linkAges Advocate, I strive to promote healthy aging in a social context. Seeing Ida’s smiles today as she discovered each functionality on her tablet made me happy to be a part of her empowerment. With an open mind and heart, I aspire to connect, teach, and learn throughout my linkAges journey.

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