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Promo Image: Northern Michigan in Focus: Cyber Seniors

Northern Michigan in Focus: Cyber Seniors

Older equals wiser in many instances, but not all.

The rapid growth of technology has left some seniors in the dust.

A few of them have decided to do something about it. They have become the students, enlisting the help of high schoolers.

"I feel like you’re getting outdated as a person when you can’t relate to your grandchildren and other people because you want to still be in contact with them, and that’s hard to do when you don’t have a computer," says Rita Finzel

For seniors, whether it’s a computer, a phone or a tablet, many don’t have a firm handle on how technology works.

"My son bought me an iPad about a year ago and I hardly ever used it, except charging it," says Brian Snyder

Something that’s just second nature to high school students.

"I was amazed that someone didn’t even know that you had to click the button on top and that you had to swipe it," says 11th grader, Kylie Young.

So it was a natural pairing, the Cadillac Senior Center with the career tech center’s digital media production class.

It goes far beyond technology.

"It is extremely gratifying to see the connections the students and seniors are making. I have to tout again, it’s not just the computers they’re learning, it’s connecting generations," says Diane Patterson, Cadillac Senior Center director.

Jacob Fewless says, "I think Bob is one of our oldest. He’s very jaded. I love that he’s a very cynical person, and I am too, and just he’s just tired. Like, all we’ve done for the past couple of weeks is look at the museum website and look at lumberyard pics and stuff. It’s neat to see what someone else is interested in, like, when we went on YouTube, we watched polka videos for a day."

For Rita Finzel, her education started with email, and progressed far beyond that.

"She goes, ‘If I send this message on Facebook, this will go right to their phone?’ And I said yes, as long as they have the app. She looked at me and says, ‘What’s an app?’ So I grabbed my phone, and I showed her and I actually had an example because I was messaging a friend," explains Rita’s teacher, Amedy Dewey.

Rita says, "It was wonderful what she taught me, because now I’m very confident about doing things working with my computer."

And Brian Snyder now has a reason to charge his iPad.

"By the second time he could remember how to check email, check Facebook and he even was receiving pictures at that point from his email, and it was great to really see each time refresh what he had learned, and it was great to see his progress," explains Kylie.

Valuable life lessons for these high school students, helping connect these seniors to a world they’ve never known.

"It’s freeing for them to say, you know what? I just connected with a nephew or an old friend that I had no idea what they were doing or when they were doing it, and now Facebook has opened up pics into great grandkids, and nieces, and nephews," says Diane.