FBLA club students offering technology assistance to seniors

Alyssa Smith helps Bruce Stoudt with his new iPad

Diane Peltz – Contributing Writer

Franklin High School’s Future Business Leaders of America Club members have been showing up at Crawford Senior Center recently to offering technology tutoring to seniors. For the past several weeks volunteers from the FBLA club, along with their co-advisor Summer Passmore, have been visiting the seniors at the center to teach them how to operate their electronic devices.

Why there’s a need

The Blog site “No Isolation” explains why seniors have so much trouble with technology. According to Eurostat, in the EU, 87 percent of people aged 75 years and over have never been online (Eurostat, 2018). Most technology designed for communication relies on the ability to see, hear and read, meaning due to health conditions, a significant chunk of society are missing out on communication opportunities.

Seniors often struggle with reduced reactivity, making it harder to keep up with fast-paced technology, such as platforms that use notifications. Nine percent of seniors at the age of 75 or over have severe visual impairments, and 18 percent have severe hearing limitations in the EU (Eurostat, 2017). Additionally, U.S statistics show that “23% of older adults indicate that they have a physical or health condition that makes reading difficult or challenging” (Pew Research Centre, 2014). There are reasons to believe that those included in these statistics cannot participate fully in mainstream technology.

Health issues aside, knowledge about technology is also very important to capability, and lack of this is a factor that prevents many seniors from participating in communication technology. As many as 77 percent of seniors report that they would require assistance were they to try and learn how to use a smartphone or tablet. Additionally, of those who are already on the internet but do not use social networking sites, 56 percent say they would need help to connect with friends and family (Pew Research Centre, 2014).

The results of these surveys are clear; whatever the reason is, seniors are missing out on communication technology. Subsequently, missing out on these opportunities for communication can leave seniors feeling disconnected and lonely. Having regular contact with a close circle of friends or family can alleviate the feeling of loneliness, a feeling that has been reported to be bad for health.

Help is on the way

Ten seniors participated in the session with the FBLA students, toting their technological devices along. Many had new cell phones but several had tablets and laptops. These lessons were not group lessons, rather, each participant received an individual tutoring session to help conquer the trials and tribulations of their specific devices. 

The tutoring sessions are part of the FBLA Community Service Project this year and the group plans to continue doing it through the end of the school year. FBLA is also going to be offering Tech Support to everyone in the public on the first and last Thursday of the month beginning in January. Anyone with questions about their mobile devices are invited to sign up with Michelle Brooks by emailing her at michelle.brooks@macon.k12.nc.us or calling the school at 524-6467.

Kim Crawford, Senior Center Coordinator, explained how this all began. 

“We polled participants of the senior center regarding the type of activities or help they desired and the most requested response was, can someone help me with technology,” said Crawford. “So, we looked to find someone who knows about many different aspects of technology and who knows better than teenagers, so we contacted Michelle Brooks at FHS to see if her FBLA students would be interested in helping out.  Ms. Brooks had previously volunteered to help at the center with Care Connection, a program for patients suffering from memory loss and dementia. She agreed to help again, and now every Wednesday at 3:30 the FBLA students show up to offer their assistance. What is so great about this activity,” she said, “is that it is an inter-generational event.” 

One of the participants, Bruce Stoudt, had the privilege of  working with Alyssa Smith one of the FBLA volunteers.  He came to the tutorial with his android cell phone and his new iPad. Stoudt explained that he purchased the iPad so that he could bring it with him when he traveled. He needed some help navigating the icons in order to get into Facebook, email and messenger. Smith knew just how to help him and before long he was off and running on his own. 

“I never had an Apple product before so I really needed some assistance,” Stoudt said. 

Smith spoke about what she gets out of helping these seniors.  

“I like helping with problems and I like talking and helping. This is my second week doing this,” said Smith. 

Linda Swafford was another senior in attendance with her husband, though they both needed different types of assistance. Swafford had just purchased a new Chromebook because she wanted a larger screen. She was interested in copying old photos onto her laptop and really just needed to learn the ins and outs of the new device. 

“I have no children or nieces or nephews to get help from, so I took advantage of getting help from the kids here,” said Swafford.  Dawson Post was her tutor that day.

“I like being able to help the community. I grew up with technology so I am able to offer help in that area,” said Post.

The event lasted for an hour as each FBLA student made their way to all the seniors in need. From flip phones to android phones, iPads to Laptops, each participant received the one-on-one tutorial they needed to be able to navigate all the buttons and log-ins that their devices require.  

Students will be at the Crawford Senior Center every Wednesday from 3:30 to 4:30 p.m. Seniors in need of assistance with electronic devices, there is help available. The Crawford Senior Center is located at 108 Wayah Street. Call (828)349-2058 for more information.

About FBLA

Future Business Leaders of America is a nonprofit educational association for middle school, high school, and college students who are interested in learning about the free enterprise system.  FBLA is a nationally recognized club in the U.S.  

The purpose of FBLA is to prepare members for careers in business and to assist them by becoming better employees and citizens. FBLA helps students develop leadership abilities, prepares them for entry into a business-related occupations, and offers a setting where members compete at regional, state and national levels in business and technology curriculum. Franklin High School’s FBLA club has 37 members.