Outreach program building connections between young people and seniors
Brent Bishop is sitting next to Mary Tiller in the computer resource centre at Ascension Collegiate in Bay Roberts. It’s a small room buzzing with computers, located just off the school’s second floor library.
From a distance, it looks like Bishop, a Level II student at Ascension, is teaching Tiller the basics — how to use a mouse or how to open Internet Explorer. However, that is hardly the case. During this particular session of “Making the Connection,” Tiller is taking on the task of learning Google Earth, and Bishop is helping her.
Bishop does not say much. He merely guides Tiller through the actions.
“It feels good to help,” said Bishop. “It’s nice.”
Tiller is looking at the roads and highways that make up the Bay Roberts and Spaniard’s Bay area.
She identifies roads and landmarks.
“Th i s i s h eadi n g t o w a rds Spaniard’s Bay,” said Tiller, motioning to Bishop with her hand — all Bishop offers is a nod of approval.
Marie Ryan is the regional co-ordi- nator for the Baccalieu Trail Seniors Outreach Services.
Ryan formed the program as a way to form generational bonds between seniors and, in this case, high school students.
“The program is centered around whatever they need to learn,” she said.
Some of the seniors had never even used a computer before taking part in the program.
Ryan said some have laptops that sit in their homes, unopened and unused.
Each senior is different. Some want to learn how to operate an email, while others want to pay for their car registration online or learn how to use their digital cameras.
“It is whatever the senior wants to learn,” said Ryan. “The students know about all of these things and can show them.”
The program differs from programs you might find at a community college, where the curriculum is more formalized.
“For this one, it is whatever they need help with,” said Ryan.
Not only is the program helping the older generation to become technologically efficient, it is forming a bond that crosses generations.
“It creates friendships among generations that seniors enjoy,” said
Ryan. “It’s building bridges.”
Making the Connection is a new program only started at the beginning of November.
Originally, the program only involved Ascension Collegiate, but now has grown to include Baccalieu Collegiate in Old Perlican.
To start the program, Ryan needed volunteers, but had trouble finding them outside of schools.
“I made a presentation to the career development class at Ascension and I got a couple of students,” she said.
The students who volunteer get hours put towards the 30 mandatory volunteer hours they need in order to graduate and move on to post-secondary education.
There are six students who volunteer with Ryan — Tyler Dawe, Bishop, Hanna Kearley, Meghan Mercer, Victoria Smith and Peter Travers.
The response has been great for the program.
Ryan said there is a waiting list of seniors who want to take part.
“Seniors love working with young people and the young people love working with seniors,” she said.
A new Facebook generation
Ryan said a top priority for seniors is to learn how to use Facebook.
For seniors, their children are using the social media tool, and their grandchildren are using it.
“It is a way for them to connect with grandchildren who live out of province,” she said. “Obviously, they want to learn how to use it.”
With it, they can see pictures of family and possibly chat with their relatives, re- connecting in the process.
Tyler Dawe is the student leader of the Making the Connection pro- gram.
He does not need to volunteer hours, but rather enjoys working with and helping the seniors in the group.
Dawe finds it remarkable that they are picking up on the technology so quickly.
“They have even started using some of the terminology that we use,” he said.
Mary Tiller never had much interest in learning to use Facebook, or anything else computer related for that matter.
“I got a laptop last year, and I’m getting into it,” she said.
Tiller feels it is important to try and learn how to use the computer, and all that comes with it. “I Skype a lot,” she said. Ryan said a lot of seniors do not have a long distance package, and learning Skype allows them to talk with someone out of province for free. Tiller is using Facebook. “I look at the pictures, and I’ve added a few friends,” she said.
Up to last week, Tiller had 29 friends.
The Making the Connection program runs Monday and Wednesday at Ascension Collegiate. Members of the program are : Front (l-r) — Clarice Adams and Tyler Dawe; Back — Marie Ryan, Peter Travers, Meghan Mercer, Hanna Kearley, Brent Bishop, Mary Trowbridge, Vera Martin, Hazel Badcock, Nathan Crane, Sally Peddle, Roy Martin, Jeanette Layden and Max Adams.