Anyone who has ever tried to tutor a computer neophyte knows the frustration of explaining a seemingly basic task, such as double-click or drag and drop. A pair of Toronto teens decided it was a challenge they were willing to accept. Sisters Kascha and Macaulee Cassaday were searching for meaningful volunteer work in their final years of high school and were inspired by their grandparents’ initiative to get on the Internet.
“So we went to a seniors’ centre with our mom who works with seniors a lot,” says Kascha, now a student at Ryerson’s School of Journalism. The pair began teaching seniors who were interested in keeping in touch with their friends, children and grandchildren through Facebook or email.
“As seniors get older, relatives move away and their social circle gets diminished. They want to reach out. Giving them access to the Internet, to Skype and Facebook, helps them know what’s going on in their family,” says Kascha. “You definitely have to have a lot of patience. Not just with seniors, but with anyone learning something new.”
Soon other teens and seniors responded to ads in Kijiji and the Cyber-Seniors project began to take on a life of its own. Big sister Saffron Cassaday, an actress and filmmaker, began filming some of the sessions. The resulting documentary, Cyber-Seniors, tracks a number of different seniors and their teenage tutors as they learn the ropes of the Internet. Eventually, the seniors even make videos for the Cyber-Seniors YouTube channel, with their teen tutors’ help.
Both heart-warming and hilarious, the film reveals that the seniors aren’t the only ones learning. It will be the centrepiece of a campaign culminating with Grandparents Day in September, to encourage teens to help connect seniors to technology.
For more information on how your teen or senior can get involved, to find out where you can see the Cyber-Seniors documentary, or to download resources, go to cyberseniorsdocumentary.com.
Originally published in ParentsCanada magazine, February 2014.