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News : Education Feb 7, 2017 - 4:07:41 AM

CT High School Students Transform Senior Citizens into Cyber-Seniors®

By Lauralton Hall

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Rose Goldstein of Milford takes notes while Lauralton Hall High School freshman Caroline Ward demonstrates how to navigate Goldstein’s tablet as part of the school’s Cyber-Seniors® mentoring program. Twenty pairs of “Cyber buddies” are participating in the weekly program at the Milford Senior Center. (contributed photo)
Milford, CT - When Lauralton Hall High School faculty member Peg McGowan happened to see a documentary called Cyber-Seniors® on YouTube, she instantly thought it would be a great fit for her students. The Canadian film followed senior citizens who discovered the world of the Internet with the guidance of tech-savvy teenaged mentors.

“The students were extremely enthusiastic about the idea of creating a program here and we hosted an information seminar at the Milford Senior Center last spring,” explained McGowan. “The response was incredible and the program took off.”

This year, twenty participating students have been assigned a “Senior Buddy.” In December, students and their buddies met one-on-one to discuss which devices the seniors were using and their goals for learning. The pairs re-convened on Wednesday, January 11th at the Milford Senior Center for their first mentoring session of 2017 and will continue to meet on a weekly basis.

“As digital natives, these young women can teach their older protégés how to navigate technology and use devices such as smart phones, tablets and computers,” said McGowan. ”The girls help with anything as basic as how to turn phones on and change “wallpaper,” to more complex instruction on using Skype and setting up a Facebook page.”

The Lauralton Hall students went through a training program last spring via the Cyber-Seniors® program director/webinars. Since the school had at least 10 committed students, they received access to the materials at no cost. Each mentor received a participant’s handbook to use as a lesson plan.

McGowan notes the girls receive service hour credit for any time spent at the Center, but often lose track of time because they are so involved with what they are doing.

“There are some girls who returned this year who are with the same Senior Buddies they had last year, so it’s a great bond. Even though our students are doing the teaching, they are learning from the older generation as well. I love going over there to watch them interact and laugh with each other,” added McGowan.

The idea for the Cyber-Seniors® documentary came from a high school project that was launched by two sisters in Canada, Macaulee (16) and Kascha Cassaday (18) in 2009. The sisters had witnessed firsthand how learning to use the Internet had transformed their grandparents’ lives. After learning some basic skills, their grandparents were in touch several times a week by email, Facebook and Skype. The Internet was instrumental in keeping their family connected despite busy schedules and living in different cities. For more information visit http://cyberseniorsdocumentary.com

Founded in 1905 by the Sisters of Mercy, Lauralton Hall is the first independent Catholic college-prep school for young women in Connecticut. More than 470 students from over 40 Connecticut towns attend. Inspired by the Mercy Tradition, their mission is to empower young women to pursue their highest potential through lifelong learning, compassionate service, and responsible leadership in a global society. For more information, visit Lauralton Hall is located at 200 High Street, Milford.

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