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Aurora senior citizens get technical help from students

by BOB GAETJENS | REPORTER Published: January 25, 2017 1:00 AM
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AURORA -- Marilyn Labi has been leaning for years with the guidance of others to help her negotiate the latest updates in technology.

Recently, she said she was given a tablet she's yet to decipher. The former professor and public relations professional worked with computers in her career, but always had tech-savvy students to help her.

"I'm still not making any headway with that tablet," she said. "When I was doing any kind of work on computers, I always grabbed whatever kid I could find. I cheated like crazy."

The next one she relies on might very well be a member of the Tech Tuesday Club, which although based at Harmon School and advised by Spanish Teacher Lauren Brancazio, includes students from both Harmon and Aurora High.

Each Tuesday from 3 to 5 p.m., the group treks to the Walker Building in front of the high school, and students work to solve technology dilemmas that senior citizens face.

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"The idea got started out of a project in a class I was taking to work with students to help seniors develop 21st century skills," said Brancazio. "The idea is to let students take the reins on this. It's really their group. It's an outreach to connect with the community."

Labi said she's hoping to attend her first session soon to learn how to manage and take pictures with her tablet.

"I actually do not know how to take pictures and transfer them," she said, adding she wants to learn to print them out and send them to friends and relatives.

Usually, when seniors come in the students have no idea what challenges they might be asked to assist with.

Brancazio said the club tried focusing on specific aspects of technology for a month, but seniors asked whatever questions they had, whether or not it related to the theme.

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"We've tried special months where we focus on a particular thing, but that's not really meeting their needs," she said.

Aurora Seniors Coordinator Patty Harrington said the senior benefits are twofold. On one hand, they get help with their technology problems.

"They love it; they look forward to it each Tuesday," she said, adding they also enjoy the interaction with young people who aren't directly related to them.

Brancazio said the students benefit from that same dynamic, learning to interact with adults who are not their relatives or teachers.

One student, who's now a senior, was "not a hugger" when he was in seventh grade, said Brancazio. She said he was hugged one time and looked extremely uncomfortable, but he's since become much more comfortable through the program.

"It benefitted him with his people skills," she said. "He's so excited. He's kept with it through high school, and I've seen him develop and grow through interacting with people."

Although most of the technology is not too difficult to figure out, Tech Tuesday member Luke Radis said students have to "be patient. You know that they're in a way different spot than you, so you have to be sure to stick with it."

Josh Williams said he faced a pretty difficult technology challenge; he found himself disassembling a desktop tower during one of the sessions.

"It was confusing," he said. "The hardest thing for me was probably the hardware rather than the software."

Tech Tuesday member Lilly Bates said she and member Cat Taylor had a tricky project recently when they were trying to transfer contacts from one phone to another by pulling the SIM card on one of the phones.

"We were calling tech support, and they weren't very helpful," said Lilly. "We finally figured out through Bluetooth you could pair the phones."

At Tech Tuesday, seniors and students alike may focus on figuring out a phone, tablet or laptop, but Brancazio and Harrington agreed both groups gain a lot more from the interaction.

Email: bgaetjens@recordpub.com

Phone: 330-541-9400 ext. 4188

Twitter: @bobgaetjens_rpc

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