Portland YouthBuilders and Northwest Housing Alternatives are launching a new “Technology in Service to Seniors” program in August, and successfully completed a demonstration project earlier this year. Students worked with elderly residents of Northwest Housing Alternatives' apartment buildings. A final training will be held on June 16 at Alma Gardens in Hillsboro.
In this initiative, students, working with volunteer advisors, design and present technology and social media training sessions to seniors. Supporting the effort, students will refurbish 150-200 computers that will be sold at low cost to seniors and community residents.
Over a one-month period, in four weekly sessions, students will present topics including “Protecting Your Computer from Viruses”, “How to Search the Internet”, “Online Shopping and Bargain Hunting”, “Staying Connected Using Video Chat”, “Online Games”, and “Using the Control Panel for Accessibility”.
According to Technology Program Manager Matt Tabora-Roberts, “This is a unique opportunity to bring young people together with seniors in a learning environment. For students, the project is a chance to build their expertise while also developing presentation and customer service skills.”
For participants, most of whom live alone, emerging research shows that access to technology opens opportunities for socialization, a key component in reducing the depression that is pervasive in senior housing.
Julia Doty, Northwest Housing Alternatives’ Director of Resident Services, notes that “Seniors living on a fixed income often want to stay connected via technology, but frequently do not have the means to purchase the hardware or the support to learn how to use it. By partnering with Portland YouthBuilders, we are increasing seniors’ access to supportive systems which leads to better health and stability for residents, while providing them the opportunity to interact with youth who can help them achieve these goals.”