Technology has become such a pervasive part of our lives that many children now know how to navigate an iPad before their first birthday. But there is a large part of the population that has been left out when it comes to tech adoption – seniors.
And while some millennials may not have the patience to teach their grandparents about the Internet, or show them how to use a smartphone, one group of Toronto-area university students has turned it into a business.
Dubbed “The Gadget Guides,” co-founders Moe Elmaleh, Corey Freeman, and Ami Moyal have been busy travelling to retirement residences around the GTA to offer hands-on lessons, teaching seniors to use smartphones, tablets and computers.
The idea was inspired by Moyal’s grandparents, who relied on FaceTime to stay in contact while living in different countries.
“They were clinging to technology because they needed it – it was all they had,” said Moyal. “At that point I thought, why don’t all seniors do this.”
Turns out, demand is high for this type of program.
Over the past month they have expanded their client base from four retirement residences to over 15. But they have also found great success in private lessons, where they travel to seniors’ homes for one-on-one personally tailored lessons.
They now see about 40 to 50 clients on average per week.
“For the most part, they just want to see why everyone is on their phones all the time – why everyone is so involved with technology,” Moyal said. “I believe that the days of veering away from technology are gone – seniors want to learn about it and be involved with it.”
According to Freeman, each lesson is quite different – depending on the group, or person, and how comfortable they are with their device – but The Gadget Guides teachers cover everything from video chatting, to how to use apps like Google Earth.
“A couple of weeks ago we were teaching a class and we happened to stumble upon the Google Earth app on iPad. They were amazed to see that not only could you go back to a city to see an aerial view, but get right down to street view,” said Moyal.
“[One of the seniors] was almost in tears when he was able to see the house that he proposed to his late wife in. That was one of the highlights that I’ve had in a session.”
According to a 2014 study by U.S.-based Pew Research, seniors still lag behind the rest of the adult population when it comes to tech adoption.
Only 18 per cent of seniors surveyed said they would feel comfortable learning to use a smartphone or tablet on their own and 77 per cent of seniors said they would want someone to help teach them about the device.
And although some seniors may face physical or health limitations that change the way they interact with technology, Moyal said Gadget Guides has proven anyone is capable of being a tech expert.
“Before, I thought there was some sort of limitation – because our generation has grown up with all of this technology, but I firmly believe that anyone can pick up an iPad or a tablet and learn it. It’s all your mindset,” he said.
“That’s the number one thing this has taught me. That when you change your mindset and open your mind to anything, you are more than capable of doing it – regardless of age and your preconceived limitations.”