The Unique Challenges of Teaching Tech to Older Adults

By Mihiri Karunaratne

mihiriStepping into the Mountain View Senior Center, you can already pick up the atmosphere of an active and engaged community. The space is beautifully designed and decorated, and full of older adults learning, socializing and enjoying themselves. It is different from my visit to other senior centers, some of which had smaller groups of people. From the start, the tech assistance that I, and my two other team members, Dominic and Kasie, were asked to give was also of a slightly different nature. The boards and postings made it evident that the members of the Mountain View Senior Center had several resources offering highly qualified technology help.

After a few minutes, it quickly became clear that today was going to be exceptional. Each of the individuals I helped today presented me with unique and challenging questions and problems; none of which I had experienced before. It forced me to think on my feet, and problem-solve to the best of my abilities, so that I could create a positive experience. Along the way, I was able to give some kind of help, regardless of the problem and my prior knowledge. I managed to work together with all of the seniors to combine our knowledge and discover alternate solutions. I had an especially rewarding experience working with Mary N, as we scoured the Internet looking for a way to understand Google Voice. Eventually we learned that the program had been informally replaced with Google Hangouts, and slowly delved into understanding the process of making calls. Finally, after almost an hour-long session, we managed to accomplish the first thing we had set out to do. Even though we took a much longer road to get there, it was a great experience to help Mary empower herself to connect freely with her loved ones and her community.

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