DoSomething.org launched a public service campaign called “Grandparents Gone Wired,” designed to encourage teens to provide one-on-one technology assistance to elders in their families or neighborhoods.
“The whole campaign is a nice idea and a lovingly subversive way of encouraging cross-generational communication,” noted Mashable. “Senior citizens are taught how to use technology and tools that will help them stay in touch with family and friends, while kids are given rewards and hopefully a little more one-on-one time with their older relatives.”
Conventional thought is that seniors would enjoy sharing photos, reading e-books, or joining video chats as their younger family members do. However, demographic studies are finding that those Americans in the 65-plus age group are not readily embracing and adopting new technologies — including smartphones and GPS navigation devices — despite their much-touted benefits.
A recent Pew Research Center Internet & American Life Project study, for example, reportedly found that 42% of Americans over the age of 65 go online, and of those, only 30% of the 75-plus age group are online.
They’d rather be doing something other than emailing or staring at a computer screen, says Tom Sowa of The Spokesman-Review. Most seniors who are using technology are sticking to email and basic online searches, although family members press them to use communication services such as Skype and Facebook.
Experts in aging say technologies that allow seniors to remain connected with family, friends, and their community are increasingly important as individuals age. Being able to use technology may actually enhance seniors’ health.
“Older adults need to adopt technology because, to me, those in their 80s who use the Web seem more alert and engaged,” Ellen Langer, a Harvard University psychology professor, told Sowa. She says it is “not clear whether more tech use is the cause or the effect of being more active.”
Youth can become involved in “Grandparents Gone Wired” by registering at the DoSomething.org website. The site offers resources, including a basic skills checklist for teaching Skype, Gmail, and Facebook.
The carrots for younger participants in “Grandparents Gone Wired” include chances to win iTunes gift cards, an iPad, and DoSomething scholarships based on regularly reporting their progress — not to mention the undying gratitude of their grandparent or older friend.
The campaign runs from December 1 through December 30.