Press Release – Cyber-Seniors and AARP

For Immediate Release

September 19, 2016

Contact: Tess Finlay

Communications Director

tess@cyber-seniors.ca (416) 710-5075

 

Older Adults Stay Connected & Decrease Risk of Social Isolation

When Learning Tech From Student Volunteers

 

TORONTO, LOS ANGELES and WASHINGTON, DC – “Cyber-Seniors,” an award-winning documentary film that inspired an international campaign, is making a significant difference in the lives of young and old as youth mentors teach seniors about technology.

Over the past year, the Cyber-Seniors campaign has been studying the effect of its intergenerational tech program on social isolation among older adults and on the attitudes of young people about aging and volunteerism with local partners: Boys & Girls Club of Greater Washington – Fort Branch (Washington, DC), University of Rhode Island (Kingston, RI), Volunteers for Community Impact (Orlando) and Wexford-Missaukee Career Technical Center/Cadillac Senior Center (Cadillac, MI). Findings from the study, which was supported by AARP Foundation, suggest that the Cyber-Seniors program has the potential to not only reduce social isolation, but also increase social engagement and interaction among older adults, while also positively affecting young people’s attitudes about older generations and the importance of community service.

Preliminary quantitative (e.g., paired t-tests) results show that older adult participants report higher social engagement scores (t=-15.35, p<.001) and improved social isolation scores (t=-7.94, p<.001) following program participation. Nearly all student mentors (85%-93%) report learning about helping others, gaining communication skills, and learning to be patient with others. Rich qualitative data shows that the program helps to break down negative generational stereotypes and reduces the generation gap, and that all generations particularly value the personal bonds and relationships that develop.

“Millions of adults 50 and older are living in a state of vulnerability because of social isolation, and technology can provide a way for them to stay connected to friends and family,” says AARP Foundation President Lisa Marsh Ryerson. “Technology can also give them access to valuable online resources and key information. By leveraging the digital savvy of a younger generation, we are enhancing the lives of older adults and helping to create meaningful relationships.”

Dr. Skye N. Leedahl, PhD, University of Rhode Island, who participated in the study, said: “At the University of Rhode Island, we have found great value in having Cyber-Seniors participation available for students in multiple departments across the campus and for older adults living in the community. Students are gaining communication skills, patience, and learning about helping others, and older adults are improving their technology skills and connections to the community.”

“Not only are people over the age of 65 the most under-represented demographic on social media, over 49 million North American adults still do not even use technology in their day-to-day lives. People under the age of 25, on the other hand, grew up in a digital world and use technology in multiple aspects of their lives. Pairing these two groups results in a myriad of benefits for both,” says Tess Finlay, Communications Director for Cyber-Seniors.

Cyber-Seniors is sustainable and transferable, and it is currently being implemented in locations across the globe. The organization estimates that over a thousand Cyber-Seniors programs have already been established in North America, with hundreds more in other areas of the world. Free resources can be downloaded off the campaign website and regularly scheduled webinars offer training for teenage mentors and best-practice tips for program managers.

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More information about CYBER-SENIORS can be found at:

OFFICIAL WEBSITE: https://www.cyberseniorsdocumentary.com/

Follow CYBER-SENIORS on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/CyberSeniorsDocumentary

Follow CYBER-SENIORS on Twitter: https://twitter.com/cyberseniors

For more information on AARP Foundation: https://www.aarpfoundation.org

 

About Cyber-Seniors

Building on the award-winning documentary “Cyber-Seniors” and the high school community service project that inspired it, Cyber-Seniors connects tech-savvy youth to older adults. Launched in 2015, the program has expanded worldwide to help older adults learn how to use technology while providing students valuable skills in teaching and communicating. The reverse mentoring model helps break down negative generational stereotypes and supports development of personal relationships. For more information on the Cyber-Seniors: Connecting Generations Campaign, visit: www.cyber-seniors.ca

The “Cyber-Seniors” documentary film was directed by Saffron Cassaday and released in 2014. This humorous and heartwarming film chronicles the extraordinary journey of a group of senior citizens as they discover the world of the Internet through the guidance of teenage mentors. With universal praise and broadcast in 17 countries, the film will premiere on PBS this fall.

 

About AARP Foundation

AARP Foundation works to ensure that low-income older adults have nutritious food, affordable housing, a steady income, and strong and sustaining bonds. We collaborate with individuals and organizations who share our commitment to innovation and our passion for problem-solving. Supported by vigorous legal advocacy, we create and advance effective solutions that help struggling older adults transform their lives. AARP Foundation is the affiliated charity of AARP.