My grandma is someone I really look up to. When she was about my age, she was operating telephone switchboards for Ford Motor Company, braving harsh Michigan winters, and probably making lots of people feel crazy for thinking they could beat her at Euchre.
Unfortunately, we have always lived pretty far away from each other, and the number of times I’ve called her should be much higher than it is. Part of this is my fault, and part of this is something that can be addressed by seniors having better access to technology.
According to a study done by the Pew Research Center in 2014, the percentage of seniors ages 65+ who use the internet is 59 percent. My grandma is part of the other 41 percent. In fact, she does not even own a computer.
This is her choice, as it absolutely should be. That being said, I’m not sure anyone has really sat down with her for a significant amount of time to help her understand what she is missing.
This semester, I want to address this need. I will be volunteering at a senior living community once a week, holding “technology office hours” for people who would like to ask me questions. In these sessions, my goals are not only to get the center’s residents to try out new things that were previously outside of their comfort zones, but to reach out to people who may not have even considered using computers/tablets/phones/etc. before.
While I wish my own grandma was closer so I could help her at these sessions too, I am excited to be contributing to the needs of people like her in the big picture. It also gives me hope that someone in Michigan might do the same for her if she wants them to.
At the end of the day, I think this work will be about recognizing that the skills I am gaining as a computer science student are a gift that I have a lot of people to thank for. In particular, I can thank my grandma for spending years telling my dad how important education is, because it led him to do the same for me.