This month's featured Gold Girl Scout is Rachel Freeman who focused her efforts on helping senior citizens learn how to use technology to stay connected and active with their communities. Congratulations on becoming a Gold Girl Scout, Rachel!
My Gold Girl Scout Project, 'Seniors Go Tech!', was designed to provide senior citizens the knowledge and hands-on practice with technology so they would be empowered to maintain and expand their connections with family, friends and their community. Medical studies have shown seniors who remain socially connected live happier and healthier lives which benefit everyone around. Technology is one way to help senior citizens can stay connected but many do not know how to use a computer, the Internet or smart phones.
Although the retirement centers I worked with provided free internet access, only one offered access to community computers and none provided any type of technological support or education to their residents. I created lesson plans and held classes, as well as individual tutoring sessions on several topics including Introduction to the Internet, Introduction to Google, Using Facebook, iPads, iPhones, Email and Kindle for two local retirement centers. As part of my project I created 'how-to' handbooks for the senior centers and local community groups so others could continue presenting the technology classes I created and possibly expand on the topics.
The 78 senior citizens who attended Seniors Go Tech! classes and tutoring sessions are now able to use their technology much more effectively. In the long-term they will become more connected with their families, friends and communities. At one Seniors Go Tech! class I met Muriel. Muriel told me she was invited to meet some friends for lunch but she wasn’t going to go. When I asked why not she said she didn’t know where the restaurant was. I told her we could find the address and directions on the internet using her iPhone but she replied she couldn’t read maps very well any more. When I explained to her we could have Google Maps give her verbal directions on her iPhone she was so excited. We found the address online, programmed the address into her phone and she drove off to meet her friends. I am happy I was able to help her learn how technology can work for her. In the future Muriel will be able to meet her friends for lunch, dinner and movies. She can share what she’s learned with her friends and they will all maintain their connections with families and friends and their community.
Seeing my new friends successfully using technology—some for the first time—was very rewarding. Seniors Go Tech! helped them learn to retrieve voicemail messages, send pictures, texts, emails and “surf the web” with confidence. I was thrilled to help all of them learn how technology can help them in their daily lives and keep their social connections strong.