Seniors and Youth Bond Over TechKNOWledgy in Strongsville

From Snapchats to selfies, this program builds a community that crosses decades

A teen shows an elderly person how to use a cellphone

For some seniors, learning the ins and outs of their phones, tablets, or computers can be a challenging task. To help older community members learn more about the technology in their daily lives and gain confidence while navigating it, the Strongsville Senior Center is collaborating with sixth-grade students at Strongsville Middle School. The new partnership brings tech-savvy pre-teens and teenagers together with seniors eager to learn new, helpful tips.

“Everything started when I met with John Lipowski, a sixth-grade teacher at Strongsville Middle School, and we talked about how we wanted to develop a program that was intergenerational,” said Sheena Wright, Strongsville Senior Center Senior Services Coordinator. “It struck me that we could have sixth graders answer our seniors’ technology questions while also learning empathy and how to work with an older adult.”

The program, called TechKNOWledgy with Teens, has been an instant hit. Each session at the center starts with students and seniors pairing off to answer a variety of questions about technology. Students help seniors with tasks such as capturing pictures, turning their devices on and off, and locating contacts to make a call. Some even show the seniors how to engage with social media to stay connected with friends.

“After every session, seniors come up to me and say, ‘This was the best idea. I’m so glad that you’re doing this for us,’” Wright said. “On the other end, students afterwards say, ‘This was so cool. I taught this woman how to send a Snapchat. This one lady wanted to order something for her daughter, and I showed her how to do it.’ For both groups, it’s been amazing to watch.”

The benefits for both groups don’t end there. For the students and seniors, the program is also a chance for them to connect with their larger community, building relationships that span decades. The program also has the overarching goal of re-education about the senior center and its offerings to the community. Wright emphasized that it’s a central hub, where members can exercise, dance, play games, and socialize.

“It’s fun to watch the seniors and teens talk about everyday things because it’s more than just learning about technology. It’s two different spectrums, the old and the young, meeting together on a common ground,” Wright said. “We love that we can be a place where people can get out of their house and meet, and with this program, it’s like a student union at a college.”

After a successful launch, Wright hopes to expand TechKNOWledgy with Teens to give even more students the chance to engage with their local community members. It’s all part of the center’s ultimate goal to advocate for seniors while keeping them connected to the community and tools that improve their everyday lives.

“Technology isn’t going anywhere — they need to know the basics,” Wright said. “TechKNOWledgy with Teens is an important part of building that literacy, and we’re lucky to have the support of our city mayor and city funding. It’s important to help seniors in our Ohio communities be technologically independent, and we work hard for all our seniors to make sure we’re a voice for them.”

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