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, Cyber-Seniors.org, 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.