Bridging the Technology Gap with Age Action
We have all, likely, struggled from time to time with explaining technology to our grandparents – or, even our parents, older siblings, aunts and uncles. From, “What’s email?” and “How do I copy and paste, again?” to “Do I have The Google?” and “Why do I want to know about this Facebook thing?” they are questions the younger generations tend to take for granted as many of us grew up with computers in front of us on a near daily basis.
As the world progresses and technology continues to boom, our senior generations are sometimes “left behind” as a result. Unfortunately, much of this technology is so new that they’ve never seen it, much less had a chance to learn how to use it – but Cisco Galway has been working to bridge this tech-gap since January 2014!
Galway Cisconians have volunteered hundreds of hours with Age Action – an organization that provides local senior citizens with the skills and confidence they need in order to embrace the connected world. Age Action is also a charity that is registered with Cisco’s matched funding – so every hour we teach, Age Action gets $10 donated from Cisco!
“The students vary in ability,” says Cisco Engineer Joe Skehill, “Some have never turned on a computer before or used a mouse, others are quite knowledgeable but just need a helping hand to figure out something that they could not quite master on their own. In all cases though, the students are hugely grateful for the volunteer’s time, knowledge and patience. They are all very eager to learn and most pick up new skills quite quickly.”
During these courses, beginner computer classes are provided, with the courses organised on a one-to-one or one-to-two basis so that everyone gets dedicated time and attention. Students also have a guide book that takes them through basic computer skills. These courses also teach the students how to navigate the internet, which enables them to keep up with friends and family, local news, and booking online travel, etc. With the ability to use a computer and the internet, an invaluable social outlet for these seniors opens as well.
In 2016, Age Action lost the use of their facility in Ballybane, Ireland. That is when Joe came to the Galway offices with an idea in mind – would it be possible to host these classes at the Cisco Galway campus? True to Cisco form – we jumped at the chance! What we saw developing, was that having the senior citizens onsite added another dimension to the Cisco office as blending these generations simply added to the conversation, creativity, and knowledge being exchanged.
Now, every Wednesday 10 to 12 senior citizens come to our Galway offices for their computer classes and on the last day of classes they have a graduation ceremony and a complimentary lunch at the onsite canteen! It’s a brilliant experience, and one we are all very proud to be a part of. It’s wonderful watching the Age Action students learn and grow – you really see their world’s open up once the technology is explained to them properly!
Joe adds, “It’s very rewarding to see the students making progress and how their new skills improve their day to day lives. Whether it’s helping them keep in touch with children or grandchildren across the world on Skype, being able look up and enjoy their hobbies online, being able to send an email to an old friend or any of the many online activities we take for granted.
The class also has a great social element and brings older folks together in person with their peers where new friendships can be made. Their new skills can also provide a communications outlet with the wider world – to help ward off loneliness for those who live alone or who have recently lost their partner.
Cisco’s culture really encourages this initiative and for anyone thinking of getting involved, I would highly recommend volunteering for these classes. Apart from the feel good factor of teaching new skills, you will meet lots of very interesting people who have lived long, rich lives – and you will end up learning plenty from them too!”
For me, personally, these classes are a reminder to us all that one day we will be the senior generation – perhaps we will feel vulnerable and unsure of the new advancements that have occurred. Maybe there will be things we haven’t seen or experienced or learned yet. It is a reminder that spending some time to provide someone with a little training and confidence is paramount in enabling all of our beautiful generations.
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