Cyber-Seniors keeps Niagara seniors connected

Intergenerational volunteer-based organization offers seniors toll free number for technology training and support

By Victoria Nicolaou staff reporter Fri., Jan. 28, 2022

Koby Vanyo first heard about Cyber Seniors at a conference she attended a few years ago.

Founded in 2015, the non-profit organization sounded interesting and beneficial, but St. Catharines didn’t have the finances available to fund a program dedicated to providing free technology support and training for senior citizens.

And more than that, Vanyo said there wasn’t the need.

Fast-forward a handful of years, add in a worldwide pandemic, and the demand for the program has drastically changed.

Last fall, Vanyo, programs supervisor for St. Catharines, said the city received a grant which enabled them to connect with Cyber-Seniors. In addition to the technology support the program provides, the funding allowed for the development of Niagara-focused virtual programming.

The organization offers technology training using a volunteer-based model, with young people offering lessons and learning activities to keep seniors socially connected and engaged.

Anyone experiencing technology troubles or requiring assistance can call Cyber Seniors toll free number and be connected with the necessary help.

“They have trained volunteers on the other end of the line who can walk you through setting up (a new cell phone) and getting connected to the internet and pointing you in the right direction,” said Vanyo.

Even those who are relatively well-versed in technology have found it beneficial. Vanyo said she has guided her 74-year-old mother – who can “do most things” when it comes to technology – to the toll free line and the service has been “a lifesaver.” “She loves talking to them and they walk her through her problems and fix it every time,” she said.

Cyber-Seniors takes care of all of the vetting and the training of all volunteers, including using students from Niagara College and Brock University to help locally.

With the grant, Vanyo said the Niagara program – called Cyber-Seniors: Connecting Generations – has created localized content, in addition to the virtual programming already offered, and helped to build local connection.

Anny Salcedo, training supervisor for the Niagara program, said local webinars have included presentations on how to use the Niagara Region Waste and NRT OnDemand apps, and COVID-19 related presentations to help find booster shot locations for seniors and offered assistance with printing or downloading enhanced vaccine receipt.

It also has a partnership with Niagara Folks Arts Centre, and hosts seminars on topics to help create awareness, such mental health and homelessness.

In the coming weeks, Salcedo said they have events focused on the history of Niagara and Pickleball.

“With the restrictions of COVID, it has been very challenging for the seniors to actually stay connected or active even, so this kind of give an opportunity for them to socialize with other people across their region,” she said.

The average attendance is anywhere from 10 to 20 people, depending on the webinar itself. Salcedo said it can be tough and “complicated sometimes” for seniors to get accustomed to going virtual.

“We try to encourage them, remind them that they are not alone, that they can count on us,” she said.

Senior centres in St. Catharines were limited in what it could offer membership when the pandemic first took hold, and Vanyo said outside a monthly newsletter and a bi-monthly phone call, they didn’t have any virtual programming available.

So now, with Cyber-Seniors as well as Senior Centre Without Walls – telephone-based program for seniors – “we can reach a wider audience” said Vanyo.

The program is just in its infancy stages in Niagara but they’ve had “some good uptake” so far and are looking to spread the word and grow.

“More and more people are learning about it, more and more people are giving it a try,” she said, especially as the country continues to deal with the ongoing pandemic.

“It’s been a very interesting offering that we can give to people and it’s been successful.”

The Cyber-Seniors toll free number, 1-844-217-3057, is free to the public. More information on the Connecting Generations can be found on its website:

To join Seniors Without Walls participants can call 905 688 5600 ext.1554.

Fantastic Free Tech Support for Your Older Parent (or You)

Written By Laura Galbato

Hello, technical support… can I help you? I jokingly answer the phone this way when extended family members call me for help with their computers, tablets, or phones. My adults kids are astonished by this, as tech-savviness is relative. They think I’m a slow-moving Prius in the left lane of the information highway, even though I strive to be right on their bumper.

I think there is a go-to person in many families who provides ad hoc support when technical issues arise. I am always happy to do so, as I want family members to succeed at whatever they’re trying to accomplish and technology can be frustrating. Often I don’t know the answer, but a quick Google search yields clarity on solving a tech issue.

But I got to thinking about people who may not be tech savvy and don’t have a family member on speed dial. Or, what if family members are as confused as the person trying to learn or solve a specific issue? Even basic tasks like connecting to WiFi, attaching a photo to an email, and copying/pasting can send some into a rabbit hole of frustration, and Google searches may yield confusing guidance above one’s pay grade. Often the generational tech-knowledge contrast between older and younger is stark.

I did a bit of digging and discovered a fantastic organization called Cyber-Seniors. Founded in 2015, Cyber-Seniors was formed by the creators of the award-winning documentary film Cyber-Seniors. This non-profit organization bridges the digital divide and connects generations using technology. They provide free tech-training and ad hoc support for people 60 years and older, using an intergenerational volunteer model.

I interviewed Kascha Cassady, Co-Founder and Director of Digital Services at Cyber-Seniors, to learn more about this remarkable organization. It’s a helpful resource for our older parents and anyone needing tech help who meets their targeted age group.

North of 52: What is Cyber-Seniors’ model and focus?

Kascha Cassady: Cyber-Seniors connects tech-savvy high schoolers and university/college students with people 60 years and older (senior citizens) who need tech help and want to learn more about their computers, tablets, and phones. In our organization, high school and university/college students are provided with lessons and learning activities to train them to act as digital mentors. Senior citizens gain access to effective technology training and intergenerational communities that keep them socially connected and engaged. 

As seniors become more comfortable using technology in their daily lives, they find a welcoming intergenerational online community, that serves to increase their well-being and offers them safe opportunities to engage, while continuing to embrace technology. To accomplish this, we provide meaningful volunteer work for young people. Our model is cost effective, sustainable and benefits both seniors and young people.

North of 52: Who uses your services?

Kascha Cassady: Anyone 60 years or older can participate in our programs. We even have individuals in their 90s who benefit from our services.

North of 52: What services do you provide?

Kascha Cassady: We provide a wide range of services. Specifically:

  • Direct access to free telephone tech-support in three languages: English, Spanish and French.
  • Book ahead one-on-one tech support that can be provided over the phone or over any digital platform.
  • Daily technology webinars in English and Spanish.
  • Opportunities to participate in other online social programs like trivia night, meditation classes, book clubs, and more.
  • Access to hundreds of tech-training resources and self-paced tutorials.

North of 52: How do folks contact Cyber-Seniors?

Kascha Cassady: Individuals can go to our website,, or call our toll free number at 1-844-217-3057. Our website lists all of our offerings, including tech webinars and social activities. There is even a place to book a one-on-one appointment. If someone isn’t comfortable with technology yet, we encourage them to call us.

North of 52: How does the phone help work?

Kascha Cassady: When seniors call between 9 am and 5 pm (EST) they are connected to a staff member. Depending on the difficulty of their tech issue or question, we can either help in the moment or book them an appointment with a volunteer. Appointments are booked for one hour. Sometimes it only takes 15 minutes and other times a volunteer will work for two hours in order to help solve the problem.

North of 52: What tech support is offered?

Kascha Cassady: We offer tech support for all types of devices, brands and platforms. All they have to do is indicate what type of technology they use, and we match them with a volunteer who is familiar with that same brand.

North of 52: What types of webinars do you offer?

Kascha Cassady: All kinds! There are daily webinars scheduled for a specific time, and hundreds of previous webinars that can be played anytime. Our topics run the technology gamut. Everything from Getting the Most from Your iPhone to Understanding Your Mac Computer Settings to How To Use Instagram to How To Listen to Podcasts. These webinars are wonderful because they allow us to provide instructive videos, presentations, web pages, and instruction.

North of 52: What’s the profile of your volunteers?

Kascha Cassady: Our volunteers are mainly high school and university students, but anyone who is tech savvy can volunteer. We offer a rewarding volunteer experience for individuals looking to make a difference. Volunteers acquire new skills while providing a valuable service to senior citizens who truly appreciate the help. Volunteer hours are documented, and digital badges and certificates are awarded. Students develop valuable work skills that give them a leg up when applying for a job or post-secondary school programs. And on top of all this, our volunteers have fun and enjoy helping people with technology.

North of 52: How many hours do volunteers work?

Kascha Cassady: Volunteers can work as much or as little as they want. During summers we often have teens volunteering several hours a day. During the school year, most volunteer a few hours each week. Our volunteers are able to see appointments and let us know which ones work with their schedule.

North of 52: Can you use the same volunteer for later appointments?

Kascha Cassady: Yes, individuals may request help from the same volunteer again. Many of our seniors have weekly reoccurring meetings with their favorite volunteer. The intergenerational bond that forms is quite special.

North of 52: Is there a cost?

Kascha Cassady: Our programs are 100% free for anyone 60 years or older.

North of 52: Where is Cyber-Seniors located?

Kascha Cassady: Cyber-Seniors is based in Toronto, but we have seniors and volunteers across North America.

Tech support for seniors

The pandemic created an urgent need among seniors to learn how to use video-conferencing and social media tools


In addition to a wide variety of tech products, Costco also offers its free Concierge tech-support service to Costco members who have purchased any of a variety of tech items from Costco warehouses or at

The past 18 months led to the emergence of video-conferencing technologies like Zoom and FaceTime® to help people maintain contact with friends and loved ones, providing a crucial means of connectivity when physical contact wasn’t possible.

Like so much modern technology, however, it carries a risk that Canada’s older population—arguably the group most in need of such services—might be left behind.

Need for support

That point was acutely driven home to Daniel Marrello of Toronto during the early days of the pandemic, when he saw his grandparents, both in their early 80s, struggling to understand online tools like video conferencing and social media.

“It dawned on us how many other seniors don’t have access to resources to help them out,” says Marrello. “But it’s really just them having to get over the learning curve, and they can be just as proficient as everybody else.”

That led Marrello and his brother David to create TechServeTO (, a free online service that uses a volunteer group of about 175 tech-savvy millennials to provide support to seniors. Since launching in April, the service has provided assistance to 1,600, older Canadians.

Originally created to serve the Toronto market, its footprint has since grown to include Quebec, Vancouver and, more recently, Florida—a long-time winter haven for Canadian seniors.

Serving seniors

Ravinder Sandhu was having trouble printing some important documents on her networked printer when she came across a story about TechServeTO on a TV newscast. The Ottawa-area retiree and Costco member had been struggling to get help from her internet service provider and was growing increasingly desperate to find a solution.

“You call these big tech companies and you can’t even get them to answer the phone, let alone solve your problem,” she says. “So I thought, ‘What have I got to lose?’ At worst [TechServeTO] is going to say they’re not serving my area.”

She turned to the TechServeTO website and managed to secure a booking with a volunteer representative just two days later. During a 45-minute, one-on-one Zoom session, the TechServeTO representative patiently guided her through the steps to download the necessary software to fix the problem.

“When I think about that experience now, it makes me glow with warmth,” Sandhu tells the Connection. “I cannot think of a better example of someone putting their talents and skills to use, because this mostly affects seniors.”

She continues, “Our banking, grocery shopping and public services went online.

Imagine the frustration at the inability to get access to technical know-how. We can’t communicate without the internet and all of these gadgets.”

Meaningful mentors

The need for services of this kind has never been more acute, agrees Brenda Rusnak, managing director of Toronto-based Cyber-Seniors ( Launched in 2015 Cyber-Seniors (which arose out of an award-winning documentary of the same name) trains younger volunteers to act as so-called “tech mentors” for seniors.

The past year has been particularly busy, with Rusnak saying that Cyber-Seniors has trained about 2000 young Canadians who have provided tech assistance to more than 10,000 seniors across Canada and the U.S. According to Rusnak, people between the ages of 65 and 74 represent the largest portion of Cyber-Seniors’ user base (39%), followed by those age 75 to 84 (26%) and those age 55 to 64 (14%).

“We started off with a primary goal of addressing social isolation among older adults,” Rusnak tells the Connection. “And when COVID hit, it became more evident that [videoconferencing] is a means of communication seniors have to have.”

Chris Powell is a Toronto-based journalist.

Youth to bring seniors and technology together in St Catharines

by Don Redmond on August 3, 2021

Anyone with elderly parents or grandparents knows the struggles of trying to set them up with a laptop or desktop computer. The simple fact is they are often afraid of technology.

Given that the internet has really only been around for 20 or so years, it’s a skill that many seniors simply never bothered to learn.

The City of St Catharines is hoping to bridge the gap between seniors and technology, partnering with a non-profit organization to help eliminate the digital divide by providing older adults technology training, using an intergenerational volunteer model.

In cooperation with Cyber-Seniors, the City will connect seniors with digital mentors for technology training, with the aim of heightening their cyber skill, allowing them to keep socially connected and engaged, while also forging a unique connection with youth volunteers. The City’s program is set to launch on August 9.

“Cyber-Seniors is a great way to help older adults get connected and feel more comfortable with the Internet,” said Koby Vanyo, programs supervisor for the City of St. Catharines.

“As we’ve seen during the pandemic, online access also became essential to stay informed and helped individuals feel socially connected while still safe and independent.”

Indeed, the pandemic was likely the hardest on seniors without internet skills as they were more isolated from their friends than ever.

While at this time, the program will be delivered virtually, and residents will have to rely on using their own devices (a smartphone, tablet or laptop will work) and Internet connection, long term, the goal will be for the City’s Older Adult Centres to offer access to technology and provide in-person training on laptops, tablets and other devices.

For more information on Cyber-Seniors, including how to connect with a mentor and more on the programs and services, visit

Confessions of a Weekend Jazz Performer

Chris first started performing for audiences 51 years ago, at 19 years old. He is now 70 and still making music. Playing drums and electric bass in bands has kept him sane throughout the years and, until COVID, has been his main retirement activity. He started playing drums in big bands during the 1980s and is currently the drummer for a big band and a bass player in a jazz duo. Enjoy the stories and music as Chris shares some of his most exciting and memorable experiences as a lifelong musician in this special senior-led talk.

If you enjoyed this video, please give it a like and subscribe to our channel for more entertaining social sessions and helpful tech sessions!

Help the electronically challenged navigate smart technology

JULY 15, 2021 AT 3:30 PM

A few years ago, a video showing two teenage boys trying to figure out how to use a rotary phone went viral. On the flip side, many older adults can’t figure out how to use a smartphone, let alone tablets, computers, and other smart devices.

A survey conducted in September and October 2020 by AARP found that older adults cited cost, knowledge gaps, and privacy concerns as top reasons they may be hesitant to adopt the technology.

Fifty-four percent admitted they want a better grasp of the devices they’ve acquired, while 37% said they lacked confidence when using the technology that has otherwise become so much more prevalent in their lives.

Iris Stein, a Rosie on the House listener and mother of our staff writer, Susan, explains why she finds smart devices “somewhat” difficult to use and frustrating.

“I’m afraid. I don’t know if I have hit the wrong button, or if I click on the wrong spot, what do I do? I’m afraid I might lose something,” says Iris.

“I’m just not computer savvy. I’m continually learning how to use my smartphone. I am more freewheeling with that than with my laptop.”

Susan and Iris recently took a road trip and utilized Google Maps to find their way through Arizona, New Mexico, and Colorado, though they did have maps from AAA on hand as a backup.

Technology frustration isn’t just for seniors. “Despite his use of a remote control since puberty, my husband, James, still can’t grasp how to record a show or movie on the DVR or access live streaming on TV,” Susan points out.

How you can make the smart transition

Today we can control the temperature of our homes, monitor security, be reminded to take medication, flip on the lights, and so much more from our smartphones. Technology is designed to make our lives easier and it can once you get the basics of your smart device down.

Start small. If you currently have a flip phone and just want to use social media, email, surf the web, and video chat, buy a “beginner” device. Consumer Cellular has some good options with affordable pricing.

Lou Nappe, Susan’s uncle, is tech-savvy. “His family was the first one I knew who had a home computer (probably a Commodore 64) and an Atari,” says Susan.

A retired commercial printer, Lou, had to keep up with technology for his business. As for those new to smart technology, he encourages people to embrace it.

“Don’t be scared or panic before you attempt anything. Explore your own computer (device). There are so many YouTube instructions on every possible subject. Watch them and learn how to use your device.”

Of course, the first hurdle to overcome could be knowing how to get to YouTube in the first place. Click here or enter in your computer’s browser. Type “how to use (your device)” in the search menu. A cornucopia of videos will populate.

There are also a variety of services available to guide you.

Get Set Up – An online place for active older adults to learn, connect and share with peers in small intimate classes.

Generations on Line — An easy-to-read, large-print click-through tutorial that takes readers through the steps of mastering devices and applications (apps). Plus, they have a tutorial for accessing YouTube!

Cyber-Seniors — Pairs older adults with high school or college students who serve as technology mentors. First-time device users can call 844-217-3057 and be coached over the phone until they’re comfortable pursuing online training.

Senior Planet — Senior Planet, in partnership with Older Adults Technology Services (OATS), harnesses technology to change the way we age. Their courses, programs, and activities help seniors learn new skills, save money, get in shape, and make new friends. Their initiative, Aging Connected, is focused on bringing 1 million older adults online by the end of 2022.

As you become accustomed to and enjoy technology, upgrade your device(s) to complement the apps you want to use.

Help someone make the smart transition

Technology moves quickly. Many people can’t keep up with it. If your parents, grandparents, siblings, friends, or anyone else needs help, and you have the knowledge (and patience), lend them a hand (or stylus).

Share the resources mentioned above. Better yet, visit in person and walk them through step-by-step. The irony here is while teaching someone how to use smart technology, they will be writing down the information.

It can be hard to make the transition. Iris bought her “big girl” phone two years ago. There are still apps that she is hesitant to use on her own. But Susan is just a call or text away.

“I am moving in the right direction,” says Iris. “Between my phone and Kindle, I use my weather, news, and library apps, check email and voicemail, do my banking, and download books.”

Video chat has not yet been mastered. Baby steps.

“We take our time and walk through the processes as often as she needs to,” says Susan.

“Mom taught me many more skills (such as using utensils) than my teaching her how to use technology. So, what if during our trip, I found her writing down the directions that Google Maps displayed on her phone?” laughs Susan.

Some habits are hard to break.

Join Rosie on the House every Saturday morning from 8 a.m.-11 a.m. on KTAR News 92.3 FM. If you’d like to send us questions or comments, email Follow us on Twitter and “Like” us on Facebook. For more do-it-yourself tips, go to An Arizona home building and remodeling industry expert since 1988, Rosie Romero is the host of the syndicated Saturday morning Rosie on the House radio program. Call 888-767-4348 with questions and comments.

Calming Computer Jitters: Help for Seniors Who Aren’t Tech-Savvy

By Judith Graham

JUNE 24, 2021

Six months ago, Cindy Sanders, 68, bought a computer so she could learn how to email and have Zoom chats with her great-grandchildren.

It’s still sitting in a box, unopened.

“I didn’t know how to set it up or how to get help,” said Sanders, who lives in Philadelphia and has been extremely careful during the coronavirus pandemic.

Like Sanders, millions of older adults are newly motivated to get online and participate in digital offerings after being shut inside, hoping to avoid the virus, for more than a year. But many need assistance and aren’t sure where to get it.

A recent survey from AARP, conducted in September and October, highlights the quandary. It found that older adults boosted technology purchases during the pandemic but more than half (54%) said they needed a better grasp of the devices they’d acquired. Nearly 4 in 10 people (37%) admitted they weren’t confident about using these technologies.

Sanders, a retired hospital operating room attendant, is among them. “Computers put the fear in me,” she told me, “but this pandemic, it’s made me realize I have to make a change and get over that.”

With a daughter’s help, Sanders plans to turn on her new computer and figure out how to use it by consulting materials from Generations on Line. Founded in 1999, the Philadelphia organization specializes in teaching older adults about digital devices and navigating the internet. Sanders recently discovered it through a local publication for seniors.

Before the pandemic, Generations on Line provided free in-person training sessions at senior centers, public housing complexes, libraries and retirement centers. When those programs shut down, it created an online curriculum for smartphones and tablets ( and new tutorials on Zoom and telehealth as well as a “family coaching kit” to help older adults with technology. All are free and available to people across the country.

Demand for Generations on Line’s services rose tenfold during the pandemic as many older adults became dangerously isolated and cut off from needed services.

Those who had digital devices and knew how to use them could do all kinds of activities online: connect with family and friends, shop for groceries, order prescriptions, take classes, participate in telehealth sessions and make appointments to get covid vaccines. Those without were often at a loss — with potentially serious consequences.

“I have never described my work as a matter of life or death before,” said Angela Siefer, executive director of the National Digital Inclusion Alliance, an advocacy group for expanding broadband access. “But that’s what happened during the pandemic, especially when it came to vaccines.”

Other organizations specializing in digital literacy for older adults are similarly seeing a surge of interest. Cyber-Seniors, which pairs older adults with high school or college students who serve as technology mentors, has trained more than 10,000 seniors since April 2020 — three times the average of the past several years. (Services are free and grants and partnerships with government agencies and nonprofit organizations supply funding, as is true for several of the organizations discussed here.)

Older adults using digital devices for the first time can call 1-844-217-3057 and be coached over the phone until they’re comfortable pursuing online training. “A lot of organizations are giving out tablets to seniors, which is fantastic, but they don’t even know the basics, and that’s where we come in,” said Brenda Rusnak, Cyber-Seniors’ managing director. One-on-one coaching is also available.

Lyla Panichas, 78, who lives in Pawtucket, Rhode Island, got an iPad three months ago from Rhode Island’s digiAGE program — one of many local technology programs for older adults that started during the pandemic. She is getting help from the University of Rhode Island’s Cyber-Seniors program, which plans to offer digital training to 200 digiAGE participants in communities hardest hit by covid-19 by the end of this year.

“The first time my tutor called me, I mean, the kids rattle things off so fast. I said, Wait a minute. You have a little old lady here. Let me keep up with you,” Panichas said. “I couldn’t keep up and I ended up crying.”

Panichas persisted, however, and when her tutor called again the next week she began “being able to grasp things.” Now, she plays games online, streams movies and has Zoom get-togethers with her son, in Arizona, and her sister, in Virginia. “It’s kind of lifted my fears of being isolated,” she told me.

OATS (Older Adults Technology Services) is set to expand the reach of its digital literacy programs significantly after a recent affiliation with AARP. It runs a national hotline for people seeking technical support, 1-920-666-1959, and operates Senior Planet technology training centers in six cities (New York; Denver; Rockville, Maryland; Plattsburgh, New York; San Antonio, Texas; and Palo Alto, California). All in-person classes converted to digital programming once the pandemic closed down much of the country.

Germaine St. John, 86, a former mayor of Laramie, Wyoming, found an online community of seniors and made dear friends after signing up with Senior Planet Colorado during the pandemic. “I have a great support system here in Laramie, but I was very cautious about going out because I was in the over-80 group,” she told me. “I don’t know what I would have done without these activities.”

Older adults anywhere in the country can take Senior Planet virtual classes for free. (A weekly schedule is available at Through its AARP partnership, OATS is offering another set of popular classes at AARP’s Virtual Community Center. Tens of thousands of older adults now participate.

Aging Connected (, another new OATS initiative, is focusing on bringing 1 million older adults online by the end of 2022.

An immediate priority is to educate older adults about the government’s new $32 billion Emergency Broadband Benefit for low-income individuals, which was funded by a coronavirus relief package and became available last month. That short-term program provides $50 monthly discounts on high-speed internet services and a one-time discount of up to $100 for the purchase of a computer or tablet. But the benefit isn’t automatic. People must apply to get funding.

“We are calling on anybody over the age of 50 to try the internet and learn what the value can be,” said Thomas Kamber, OATS’ executive director. Nearly 22 million seniors don’t have access to high-speed internet services, largely because these services are unaffordable or unavailable, according to a January report co-sponsored by OATS and the Humana Foundation, its Aging Connected partner.

Other new ventures are also helping older adults with technology. Candoo Tech, which launched in February 2019, works with seniors directly in 32 states as well as organizations such as libraries, senior centers and retirement centers.

For various fees, Candoo Tech provides technology training by phone or virtually, as-needed support from “tech concierges,” advice about what technology to buy and help preparing devices for out-of-the-box use.

“You can give an older adult a device, access to the internet and amazing content, but if they don’t have someone showing them what to do, it’s going to sit there unused,” said Liz Hamburg, Candoo’s president and chief executive.

GetSetUp’s model relies on older adults to teach skills to their peers in small, interactive classes. It started in February 2020 with a focus on tech training, realizing that “fear of technology” was preventing older adults from exploring “a whole world of experiences online,” said Neil Dsouza, founder and chief executive.

For older adults who’ve never used digital devices, retired teachers serve as tech counselors over the phone. “Someone can call in [1-888-559-1614] and we’ll walk them through the whole process of downloading an app, usually Zoom, and taking our classes,” Dsouza said. GetSetUp is offering about 80 hours of virtual technology instruction each week.

For more information about tech training for older adults in your area, contact your local library, senior center, department on aging or Area Agency on Aging. Also, each state has a National Assistive Technology Act training center for older adults and people with disabilities. These centers let people borrow devices and offer advice about financial assistance. Some started collecting and distributing used smartphones, tablets and computers during the pandemic.

For information about a program in your area, go to

Judith Graham:

Friendly for all: Lincoln’s age-friendly committee focuses on inclusivity

By Luke EdwardsReporter

Thu., June 3, 2021

When Lincoln’s age-friendly committee formed, members were eager to make the town welcoming not just to seniors, but to people of all ages. 

After all, the group’s mission statement describes ensuring quality of life for people at all stages of life. 

But what they couldn’t have predicted was a global pandemic that would highlight some of the issues many face in maintaining that quality of life. Despite the issues brought to the fore as a result of COVID-19, not to mention the challenges in meeting and running a committee during restrictions and lockdowns, its members are thrilled with the work they’ve accomplished to date.

“We’ve been able to achieve a lot for the circumstances we are under,” said Lynn Timmers, deputy mayor and one of council’s representatives on the committee.

One of the biggest achievements — being designated age-friendly by the World Health Organization — hasn’t been finalized yet, but members are hopeful it will be in the next year. 

“Being age-friendly designated would really elevate our status as a community, that we are all inclusive,” said Timmers.

“It was a really in-depth and comprehensive application,” added Charlotte Sheridan, chair of the committee.

During her time on the committee, and especially since the onset of the pandemic, Sheridan said she’s learned just how crippling isolation can be if the community doesn’t work together.

“For me, I think it’s the isolation piece that really hit home,” she said. She has friends who essentially haven’t left their small apartments in over a year. Others had to face the isolation of living in long-term-care homes on lockdown, or who simply didn’t have means to connect with people.

“That’s an issue, and COVID just made it worse,” she said.

But the municipality and local agencies have figured out ways to help. Lori Laird, recreation co-ordinator with the town, described some of the ways they changed programming to ensure isolation was kept at a minimum. Its Seniors Centres Without Walls program, for instance, has elderly people connect regularly through phone calls.

“That’s a really simple way for seniors to connect with each other and chat without having to have that technology knowledge,” said Laird.

Town staff have also continued regular wellness checks, something that other groups like Rose Cottage Visiting Volunteers also conduct.

And for those older people who want to learn how to connect with technology, the Cyber Seniors group is able to get them set up, added Timmers.

As the pandemic hopefully recedes in the coming months, in-person programming will return. However, Laird and Timmers said there are some things they’ve learned throughout the pandemic that can be used in the future to make Lincoln more age-friendly.

Laird stresses that age-friendly doesn’t just mean senior-friendly. While June is Seniors’ Month and a lot of the town’s programming seems focused on seniors on first blush, in many ways, she said it’s all encompassing.

“If you have an accessible walkway, it’s (also) good for parents with strollers, or children in a wheelchair,” she said.

One area Laird sees as having potential is with intergenerational programming, bringing together Lincoln’s residents of all ages.

“Our seniors have so much to teach, but also have such great opportunity to learn from our young people and youth,” she said.

Lincoln Mayor Sandra Easton said Seniors’ Month is a great time to “honour the ongoing contribution of older adults to our community.”

“Through initiatives such as the age-friendly advisory committee, we are prioritizing the voice of older adults and ensuring that their views, desires and needs are considered in everything we do.”

Cyber-Seniors and the Niagara Prosperity Initiative Project

With the support of the Niagara Prosperity Initiative, Cyber-Seniors delivered laptops and tablets, as well as free tech training to over 250 low-income senior citizens in the Niagara area, keeping them connected and reducing their social isolation.

Must-see Movie: Cyber-Seniors

05/15/2014 01:08 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Cyber-Seniors premieres in New York on May 16 and Toronto on May 30

I attended the screening of Cyber-Seniors, a heartwarming — and surprisingly funny — documentary about the extraordinary journey of a group of senior citizens as they discover the world of the Internet through the guidance of teenage mentors.

Walking into the theater at the Movies for Grownups Film Festival, I expected Cyber-Seniors to be a dry, informative info-nugget on how the Internet could enhance the lives of the older set. I couldn’t have been more wrong.

Honestly, I’ve never been to a theater where the crowd was howling with this level of laughter.

Maybe because it was so unexpected (I hope I’m not spoiling the surprise here), but the interaction between the old folks and the young whippersnappers is just priceless:

After the screening, I was honored to sit down with the documentary’s producer, Brenda Rusnak, to get the inside scoop:

Go see this movie, you’ll walk out with a brightened outlook on the world and the people that populate it.