In 2014 a documentary film directed by Saffron Cassaday called Cyber-Seniors was released. This heart-warming, humorous film follows the extraordinary journey of several Senior Citizens as they discover the magic of the world-wide-web, through the guidance of teenage mentors. Their exploration of cyber-space is catapulted to a whole new level when 89 year-old Shura decides to create a YouTube cooking video. This sets the ball in motion for a spirited YouTube competition where hidden talents and competitive spirits are revealed.
The idea for the Cyber-Seniors documentary film came from a high school project that was launched by the film director’s two sisters, Macaulee and Kascha Cassaday. The sisters had witnessed first-hand how learning to use the Internet had transformed their grandparents’ lives. After learning some basic skills, their grandparents were in touch several times a week by email, Facebook and Skype. The Internet was instrumental in keeping their family connected despite busy schedules and living in different cities. Inspired by this realization, the sisters started the Cyber-Seniors program to help other seniors get online.
Building on the award-winning film and high school community service project, Cyber-Seniors is a non-profit organization that encourages tech-savvy youth to put their knowledge to good use by mentoring older adults in technology. Through the development and dissemination of resources to individuals and organizations around the world, Cyber-Seniors offers a sustainable and scalable tech- training model for older adults. Seniors citizens, who often view technology as cold and impersonal, enjoy the one-on-one interaction with their young mentors and young people gain valuable service experience, which benefits them in their future studies and careers.
Over 49 million North American adults do NOT use technology in their day-to-day lives, whereas young people under the age of 25 grew up in a digital world and use technology in all aspects of their lives. Eliminating the digital divide allows intergenerational relationships to thrive and addresses the growing problem of social isolation amongst the elderly. Social isolation poses significant health risks including increased risk for all causes of mortality, dementia, increased risk for re-hospitalization, and an increased number of falls. Research also suggests that older adults who remain socially active and cognitively engaged have better cognitive function than those who are isolated and disengaged.
Our model and resources have enabled thousands of Cyber-Seniors programs, with measurable outcomes, to be established throughout the world. Ideas are a dime a dozen but the people who implement them are priceless. We hope you will take this idea and establish a Cyber-Seniors program in your community.