Tech-savvy teens help seniors with devices

Mary Wicoff|Commercial-NewsSchlarman Academy students Conley Bateman, standing, and Kylie Sherer show Carol Austin, 80, how to take photos on her tablet.

DANVILLE — The generation that thought television was a novelty 60-plus years ago got a crash course in the latest technology this week.

“There’s a whole world out there,” Carol Austin, 80, said after getting a lesson on her tablet. “How great it would be to grow up using this.”

Austin and few other residents of Liberty Village got help with their mobile phones and tablets Wednesday afternoon when 22 eighth-graders visited from Schlarman Academy north campus.

Kathy Gallagher, who teaches computers to students in kindergarten through eighth grade, said, “The main purpose is to bring two generations together so they can learn from each other.”

This is the first year that she’s tried the teen-to-senior approach; she came across the idea on the Internet.

The students also visited Liberty a couple of weeks ago, and a handful of seniors got help then. The young people helped the residents do things such as using social media and Face Time, and even how to delete old voice mail messages.

“I really enjoy it,” student Suzet Sermersheim said. “We get to understand how this generation works and how everything has evolved so fast.”

Pointing to a flip phone and then a smart phone, she said, “From this to this.”

Sermersheim and student Seth Bennett were helping Liberty residents Larry and Chick Kittell with their phones.

Chick, 90, said she and Larry, 88, didn’t have TV when they were first married and now she wonders, “What did I do before TV?”

Suzet said to her, “When you were a kid, you couldn’t imagine what we’d have now.”

Seth pointed out that mobile phones have gone from the size of a brick to a slim device that fits into your pocket in just two or three decades, and from 1-2 pounds to less than one-half pound.

“No one thought it would be so successful,” he said of the latest generation of mobile phones and the Internet, and in the future he expects to see floating cars.

Suzet and Seth were helping the couple with using their phones, but they were learning at the same time. Seth was a bit baffled by some features of the flip phone, but he quickly figured it out.

“I want to see that Twitter stuff,” Chick told Seth as their session started to wind down.

Seth went online and showed what the fuss is all about, as politicians’ tweets have been in the news a lot lately.

Other seniors and students were pleased with the hour-long session.

Karen Rayfield, who works the front desk at Liberty, asked questions of students Kennedy Kotcher and Cathy Harvey. Her grandchildren use her iPad, and she wanted to know how to get settings back to where they were.

“This was very helpful,” she said afterward. “These kids know so much.”

A lot of the tenants at Liberty have iPads and smart phones, she said.

Cathy knows a lot about tablets and Kindle, while Kennedy knows about Facebook and phones, so together, they made a good pair. Both girls said it was a lot of fun helping seniors.

Students Kylie Sherer and Conley Bateman also said they enjoyed showing Carol Austin how to take photos with her tablet and putting them in online albums.

This was Austin’s second time meeting with the students, so it was easier this time. She even brought a small notebook so she could write down notes.

“They’re so quick,” she said of the teens.

She learned a lot during both sessions, she said, and enjoys her tablet now that she’s more used to it.

While the residents got a lot out of the interaction with the young people, Chick Kittell joked, “I need them to come back in a week or so.”

She added, “We do appreciate this.”

Gallagher’s computer classes cover topics ranging from Web 2.0 tools, copyright, plagiarism and credible resources to web design and 3D printing.

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