Tualatin Hills Park & Recreation District: Connecting People, Parks and Nature: ‘Cyber-Seniors’ pair up with teens to hone their technolgy skills at Stuhr Center

by Ravleen Kaur, Beaverton Valley Times

At THPRD’s Elsie Stuhr Center, John Flood Sr. peered at his smartphone, his brow furrowed as he tried to fi gure out how to send his daughter a message containing a picture.

Teen volunteer Sam Madsen – whose mother Karin Madsen is a THPRD program coordinator at the center – was making rounds through the room where seniors taking a technology class learned how to master their smartphones, tablets and laptops.27 Cyber-Seniors and teens Stuhr - 1-13-17

“Now, I can do the messaging, but I’ve never been able to get the picture to send,” Flood told Madsen, holding up his phone to show her. Flood has daughters in California and Montana and wants to be able to share pictures with them.

Every Wednesday during the eight-week class, seniors paired up with teen mentors to practice using their devices. Held in partnership with Best Buy, the class follows the Canada-based Cyber-Seniors learning module to bridge the technology gap that older adults often face.

“The goal is to actually get them to use the technology in a way that enriches their life,” said Bret Nelson, general manager of the Best Buy at Tanasbourne.

Students come from all skill levels. Some are working on the basics: turning a computer on and off, using a keyboard, sending emails. Others are more practiced and are simply looking to learn more.

At one class, the group learned how to use Skype and Facebook to stay in touch with family and friends.

Flood was retired when he purchased his fi rst computer in 1998. That’s just two years before Madsen, a Beaverton High School sophomore, was born into a world saturated with screens.

Madsen regularly volunteers at Stuhr and enjoys helping seniors troubleshoot problems. “I like to watch them when they fi gure out something new about their phone or their tablet, and they’re like, ‘Oh wow. I didn’t know I could do that,’” she said.

Most of the teen mentors volunteer through the Beaverton Police Activities League, an afterschool program for youth ages 8 to 18.

“I thought it was going to be boring, but it’s been a lot of fun connecting with them,” said Arianna Palominos, another Beaverton High sophomore.

“They’re so much like us, some of the stuff they don’t know, I don’t know either. I learned some, like, life lessons from them, actually.”