Senior Citizens Dig YouTube and Teenagers

YouTube has an appeal for the greatest generation, and not for watching frolicking baby animals montages.  A documentary film Cyber Seniors tracks a senior living center where high school students volunteered to teach seniors computer skills.  Most participating residents were born in the 1920s or 30s many were living alone after the death of a spouse.  The end product of the project was a competition for senior-created YouTube videos made with the guidance and assistance of a high school student.

Here are my observations from previewing the film that apply to all of us as we care for each other.

Age is not a barrier to embracing technology.  The high school students were amazed how some of the very oldest residents were the most successful learning new skills and experimenting with their new toys.  However other seniors abandoned the project early showing no interest or curiosity. 

High school students developed patience and respect for a generation they barely know.  Early in the documentary the students giggled and rolled their eyes at the residents questions and mistakes.  The 90 year olds became “human” when the students saw high school photos of them.  Suddenly time was bridged when the teenagers realized their senior students were just like them.

Senior’s new internet skills reduced their social isolation.  Many seniors found family and old friends left behind over the decades.  Many of the widowed seniors lost contact with others after their spouse death.  Many families find it difficult to be reminded that a loving parent is gone as a result disconnect with the remaining parent.  SKYPE brought so many families back together during this project.

The values of the older generations are translatable to new technology.  Many of the women lamented the lack of letter writing but learned to embrace email as a satisfying substitute.  SKYPE-ing with great great grandchildren living hundreds of miles away transformed the faces of the seniors.  One woman took pleasure in teaching her great granddaughter how to count fingers online.  Seniors expressed the greatest joy in connecting with the childhood of others.

The internet gave seniors a sense of control and autonomy. The internet opened up a whole new world of opportunities for these 80 and 90 year olds.  It was amazing to watch seniors dream of travels and new adventures.  Dreams and new horizons can happen at any age.

This documentary is a model for us today.  I recommend you watch this heartwarming documentary.

Technology does not need to represent a ‘divide’ between the generations.  I recommend you all sit down with a laptops and grandpops and have an adventure.   

Monica Stynchula, MSW, MPH