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Teen Senior Computer & Gadget Connection

Alameda County Library

Innovation Leader: Gary Morrison, Teen Services Coordinator, gmorrison@aclibrary.org

Problem Statement

Older adults in our community need one-on-one help to learn computers skills and assistance with their electronic gadgets. Many of the seniors have tried the local adult schools and senior centers, but have been frustrated by the classroom and large group approach to teaching the skills they need. This intergenerational program serves teens and seniors by providing a venue for teens to earn high school volunteer credits by teaching seniors basic computer skills, how to use the Internet, and how to use their personal electronics.

Innovation

The program evolved from a desire to provide older adults a way to become familiar with the Internet and their personal electronics devices (e.g., cell phones, digital cameras, e-book readers, etc) while simultaneously offering teens a meaningful way to earn school-required community service hours. The Library’s Senior Outreach Services Coordinator and Teen Services Coordinator worked together to develop a way to meet both these community needs. Teen volunteers receive a two-hour training co-taught by the Teen Services Librarian and Older Adult Services Librarian. They learn the Library’s role in teaching information-seeking skills, patron confidentiality, how to refer reference questions, and how to work with issues relevant to seniors, such as physical limitations.

Progress

This has become one of the Library’s most popular programs. During the last year, over 35 teens have helped almost 400 seniors. Both the teens and the seniors enjoy the learning opportunity and the intergenerational interactions. The seniors are very appreciative of the teens (and the Library) for providing this setting, where they can learn in a one-on-one environment. The teens gain an understanding of the role of teaching, a skill rarely gained in most volunteer jobs. They start to understand the information needs of a segment of our community that may have previously seemed far-removed from their own. Teens and their parents have told us that, when joining this program, they are somewhat apprehensive how they would interact with the seniors. In virtually all cases, they have been very successful, and some have continued in the program even beyond their service hour requirements. Although there has been no formal evaluation, feedback from both teens and seniors has given us every confidence that the program is successful. Teens and seniors have told us repeatedly that any minor apprehensions they had entering the program were replaced by strong feelings of accomplishment and self-esteem. The Teen Senior Computer and Gadget Connection has benefited the teens and the seniors in our community, and has enabled the Library to serve an important role by providing a program that allows them to work together in such a positive environment.