Teens Tutoring Cyber-Seniors

After Toronto high school students Kascha and Macaulee Cassaday watched their 80-year-old grandparents master a hand-me-down computer, they decided to embark upon a community outreach project. In 2009 they enlisted other students to teach seniors at a local retirement complex how to send emails and also use Facebook, YouTube, and Skype.

As 80- and 90-year-old students were getting the hang of going online, the girls’ older sister Saffron Cassaday, a professional actress and psych major at York University in Toronto, decided to shift gears. She used her acting experiences and behind the scenes skills as editor on the TV series, “Key of Z,” to switch hats and become a director. At first, Saffron filmed the process to help support the program—but she wound up with a comedic documentary that became a full family collaborative when Mom came onboard as film producer and Dad served as a helpful sounding board.

When I first got wind of this documentary opening last May in lower Manhattan, I was not dying to see it. I thought it was going to be a dull “How to Teach Seniors the Internet.” Besides, my own mother has a full cyber-life of her own: She has been on email and the internet for years; she texts her grandchildren and “likes” my posts on Facebook. (Of course, my parents habitually blew away age stereotypes: Mom ran the NYC Marathon to celebrate her 60th birthday and Dad went bungee jumping at 85.) And what I found with Cyber-Seniors was a fun and comical film about people of all ages connecting and celebrating life.

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