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What seniors need that young people can give

Based on our limited experience as two people growing old, and our conversations with others of our age group, we have issues that are not being met even if we have the money. Using a computer can bring us to tears of rage and shame. Geek Squad, iYogi, and free online resources often use words that seem English but have some other meaning. They tell us something is on the screen, but it may not be visible on our computer. We need someone right next to us, not someone on a phone or on the screen. Also, we often have to do certain exercises for our health, but forget or don't feel like it. Having "personal trainers" to come by regularly and drag us out for a walk, or make sure we do our movements correctly, could actually save lives.

Photo of Joan Penzenstadler
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I'm not in a position to do organized research on these and other needs, but someone could easily get data from any group of seniors that meets, but they would also need to talk to people who don't get out.  My point is that these issues are not limited to poor people; there's a lot of other people who aren't getting real humans in their lives to help deal with their stress.   The younger "mentor" would not merely be serving an important need, but would also learn how to explain technology better to non-techies, or, in the case of the personal trainers, learn a lot about various physical problems and the appropriate therapies.  Definitely there would be growth in social skills and friendship on both sides.

The question for me is how many young people would see this type of service as dignified, and how many older people would keep it from becoming a master-servant relationship.  

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Photo of Anja Kantowsky

Thank you for your post. I can only stress the digital literacy needs of the elderly. My father - a retired university prof - regularly feels literally humilated by his inability to "correctly" use digital forms, tools etc.
My mother died some months ago and he loves to write letters and correspond with people. Social media would be a great means to get him back into the world. Even though we call each other daily, the issues he has with his CPU are so basic that they can only be solved in person.
Also he is afraid "something gets broken" so one has to really go through the process together with him.
I am planning to get him sth. that's easier to handle (e.g. an iPad). Am planning to connect him (so far no wifi in his house etc.) when I'm visiting for 3 weeks in the summer.
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Bottom line: the young are digital literate, most of them naturally navigate, interact and contribute to social media. That's something they can do as a mentor for the elderly. Once unlocked, the young will be amazed what the elder can share.

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