This news story was originally printed in The Oklahoman.
Students at Francis Tuttle Technology Center became teachers to help residents from a nearby retirement community learn to use technology more effectively.
The eight weeks of class culminated Nov. 18 when 10 residents of Concordia Life Care Community graduated from the Cyber Seniors program.
“Technology use is one way today’s older adults are keeping their minds active and sharp,” said Danny Eischen, Concordia executive director, who reached out to Francis Tuttle after viewing a documentary about a similar program.
“We were overwhelmed and blessed by how much they care about this program and how much they put into it,” Eischen said.
This was the second year Francis Tuttle offered Cyber Seniors at no cost to the residents. Officials said both the young adults and older adults have benefited from the multigenerational program.
“We decided that would be a good collaboration. All of our students are pretty technology savvy,” said Terry Wallace, adult and career development coordinator.
This fall 15 students answered the call for volunteers.
“The students pick a senior name out of a hat, and then we let fate do the rest,” she said.
‘It was a success’
Susan Weinmeister learned to attach photos to her emails and to download music.
“A lot of time was spent on my iPod, putting music on it and knowing what to do to make a play list,” Weinmeister said.
Students Alex Daniels and Grace Huffman were her instructors.
“I was very surprised at how much she already knew. She was really pretty competent already, so it was really easy to teach her,” Daniels said. “It was really fun too. We ended up with extra time that we got to just talk a lot.”
He responded to the call for volunteers “because it was an opportunity and they teach you to seize any opportunity you can in the class I’m taking.”
Huffman said she likes to help people and to answer questions. “That’s really my kind of thing,” she said.
Richard Long, a retired chemical engineering professor, was asked to present this month at the American Institute of Chemical Engineers annual meeting in San Francisco. He needed help with PowerPoint.
“I thought it would be fun, it would be a great learning experience for the both of us,” said Nate White, who assisted Long.
“Nate helped me make the presentation. It went very well,” Long said. “Nate is very good.”
Kaitley Kuck and Rebecca Statton said they had fun helping Don Connelly learn to use his Kindle and Windows 10 on his computer.
“It was a success. I don’t know everything, but I know how to find out what I need to know,” Connelly said.
Learning from each other
Eischen said it was exciting to see residents and students who were unsure at first trading email addresses, laughing and having fun.
“I hope through this process that you’ve grown to appreciate seniors a little bit more and have a better understanding of the value that they have, because they know a lot and they’ve learned a lot from you,” he said at the graduation ceremony.
Tom Friedemann, superintendent and CEO, said Francis Tuttle teaches preschoolers, high school students, college prep students, adults and corporate executives.
“We train everybody that’s wanting to learn a new skill, and you just put a cap on that,” Friedemann told the graduates.
“We’re so honored to be able to help you in the technology push, which is a challenge for all of us,” he said. “I’d like to thank you all for choosing to grow and using Francis Tuttle as your change agent.”
The Concordia activity bus brought the residents to the campus at 12777 N Rockwell Ave. each Friday afternoon for lessons with their “personal technology liaison.”
Wallace said the one-to-one format and relaxed learning environment allowed the seniors to be comfortable asking questions and experimenting with their devices.
Students helped them with Facebook, Pinterest, email, smartphones and more.
It was wonderful to see members of the Greatest Generation and members of a generation so young “they don’t have a name yet” learning from each other and forming friendships, Wallace said.