A sixteen-year-old high school student is teaching senior citizens how to use technology.

From Zoom calls to birthday party parades, it's safe to say that the coronavirus pandemic has greatly impacted the way that we connect with loved ones. Phone calls, texting, video conferencing services, and even a handwritten letter can help everyone stay in touch with their family and friends in lieu of getting to spend time together in person. And we really do mean everyone. Now, young people are doing their part to ensure that older generations are able to comfortably use modern technology.

Granddaughter teaching grandfather how to use computer
Credit: Paulus Rusyanto/EyeEm/Getty Images

According to WBUR, 16-year-old Jordan Mittler realized that senior citizens may not know how to use smart phones or computers, so he took it upon himself to teach them. Every Sunday, Mittler teaches a free technology class for seniors via Zoom. He was inspired to start the program after trying to teach his own grandparents how to use their smartphones. "I spent numerous time on the phone with my grandparents, walking them through simple procedures like sending a message, or making a phone call and sending an email and downloading an app," Mittler told WBUR.

Before the pandemic, Mittler was teaching this class in person in a classroom at his New York City high school but once social distancing guidelines were implemented nationwide, Mittler took it online. Rosalind Zuger, one of Mittler's students, lives alone but found social connection through his classes, which also allowed her to connect in new ways with family and friends. "I think that has made a very big difference to my situation, being alone here," Zuger told WBUR. "I know I can Zoom in to anybody I like at any time. With that, I find that I can get through the days. I get through the weeks." Since the pandemic started, Mittler's online classes have doubled in size and he hopes that they continue to grow.

While some teens like Mittler are teaching seniors how to use technology, others are trying to use a form of communication that is more familiar to seniors—writing letters and making phone calls. In April, a group of high school students from Calgary, Canada created a free hotline called the Joy4All Project. They have recorded jokes, short stories, and poems to share on the hotline, which anyone can access by dialing 1-877-JOY-4ALL (1-877-569-4255). As of mid-May, the hotline has received almost 17,000 calls.

"We've had messages from grandmas and grandpas who live on their own and because of COVID, their own grandchildren can't see them," Jared Quinn, a student organizer, told WBUR. "They're like 'this just makes me feel like I'm talking to my own grandchildren.'"


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