The Internet Isn’t Just for the Young</a>

By Neil Genzlinger

  • May 15, 2014

Early in the documentary “Cyber-Seniors,” you might find yourself saying, “Ugh, are they really going to make me watch octogenarians poke fruitlessly at laptops for 75 minutes?” But the film soon stops that torture and becomes a likable intergenerational tale with a bit of unexpected pathos.

It chronicles a program begun in Toronto by two high school sisters, Macaulee and Kascha Cassaday, in which students tried to help residents of a retirement community become more computer-literate. At first the film sounds like an advertisement for Facebook, with the teenagers introducing their gray-headed charges to it, generally at too fast a pace for an aging newcomer to absorb.

But eventually one instructor decides to make a YouTube video with his instructee, and soon there’s a contest to see which pair can come up with the best video. Some of the results are funny — here you’ll learn that an iron is actually a cooking tool — while some are bittersweet. And as this is going on, a distressing side story involving Macaulee develops. The film’s director, Saffron Cassaday, is her older sister, and she does a commendable job of melding Macaulee’s personal setback with the film’s overall theme.

It would be nice to hear more from the young mentors about what they learned, and more from the cyberseniors about how computer use might be made more elder-friendly. But in general, this is a sweet tale that will resonate with anyone who has tried to make a Skype call to a grandparent.

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