Hi! I’m Steve Sidner, a technical volunteer at the Do Space, helping seniors at our CyberSeniors clinic. I have been doing this for a few years. We have seen a big seachange lately. More and more folks are coming to see us with a new gadget, usually a smartphone or a tablet, and no prior computer experience!

Many of these people are older and often retired. Their life work and their interests never put them into the PC revolution. The most technology they have is a wired phone, a TV, and a radio and maybe a stereo system. They have heard of the Internet but don’t really know quite what it is. They have seen their family and people on the street with mobile phones but have no idea how they work.

But they are beginning to realize that they are missing out. They see stories on TV about Web pages, links, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Their families, particularly their kids and grandkids can’t communicate with them anyway except with a phone call, which is creepy for people under 20. No texting or emails. And their family has no way to share pictures with them.

So now some family member has given them a tablet or a smartphone. The giver sets up a phone account with Internet and pays for it. They loaded the 10 or 20 essential apps onto the device Granny or Gramps should need. They gave it to them at a family gathering, showed them how to use it, and wished them luck.

Finally somebody tells them about CyberSeniors at the Do SpaceThe senior walks in with a glazed, fearful look. They are met at the door by one of our concierges and guided to an idle volunteer with experience with the kind of device they have. We greet them, offer them coffee, sit down with them and ask how we can help.

Now starts a volunteer experience few have experienced. This person doesn’t even know what to ask. They have no cognitive model for the Internet or mobile devices, or the myriad concepts and functions that we all take for granted. It is not really about technology; it is about modern culture and communications.

We have learned to focus unjust  one thing for this session. Do they know how to make and answer a phone call? Okay – do they know about contacts and how to build them from recent phone calls? Okay – do they know about texting? Okay – do they know how to use the camera?

Whatever they want to learn about, we have learned (and are still learning) how to show them as few concepts/functions as we can. We let their fingers do the walking, rather showing them ourselves. Just learning to use a touchscreen can take 15 or 20 minutes. We use our own mobile phones to make phone calls, texting and contacts come alive. We take and share photos between us.

My world has expanded so much in the last few years, helping people grow and adapt and be part of the mainstream again. I find it profound and satisfying!

About Author
Steve Sidner

Steve Sidner is a volunteer at Do Space