Seidenberg professor Jean Coppola’s gerontechnology program was featured on NPR among a number of programs across the country with experts to help “usher older adults into the digital age.”
At Pace University in New York, college students who tutor seniors in local retirement homes are prepped with sensitivity training.
“They get to feel what it’s like to be 70, 80, 90 years old,” says associate professor Jean Coppola, who directs the program. “They wear specially prepared glasses that give them different visual impairments.”
Coppola also has students do things like tape two fingers together — to simulate the effects of arthritis or a stroke — then try to navigate a mouse. By the time they’re at the computer with an elder, she says, they’re not frustrated at all.
“They’ll say something a hundred times because they’ve worn cotton balls or earplugs in their ear,” she says. “They understand that they have to speak up, articulate their words.”
Coppola says the whole thing is a bonding experience for both generations. Applause often breaks out the first time a senior receives an email. Some have been able to see new grandchildren for the first time through emailed photos.
Pamela Norr, in Oregon, says young trainers also gain new confidence. They see that the seniors are “not criticizing me for the way I dress,” she says, “or clucking their tongue. They’re actually respecting me for the knowledge base that I have.”
Perhaps most unexpected, some teen trainers and seniors have even become friends. They keep in touch long after class ends — through Facebook, of course.