Ami Moyal and Moe Elmaleh, like most millennials, never gave their digital chops a second thought — until they tried to teach their grandfather how to use Skype.
“He is not a technologically-savvy guy,” Moyal explained, smiling. “We were surprised how intuitive it was, how quickly he learned it.”
The cousins said the process of explaining the virtual world inspired them to found The Gadget Guides, a company hawking the 21st century’s most valuable skill: computer literacy.
On the retirement home circuit the pair gathered steam, eventually expanding to three dozen clients and picking up their third instructor, Corey Freeman.
Now, three years later, they want to include the other end of the generational spectrum.
The guides offer personalized lessons as well as community classes. Recently they’ve been dropping in to the Malvern Family Resource Centre, where they’ve teamed up with a summer camp to deliver hand-on tablet lessons to neighbourhood seniors.
Moyal, Elmaleh and Freeman, all in their early 20s, employ these pint-sized helpers to work closely with seniors for whom tablets are often mysterious, sometimes daunting contraptions.
In an hour-long class, about 20 pre-teens gathered around the devices, their older students hesitantly swiping and clicking.
“Prior to starting this class, things like Google Maps, Google Earth — these were foreign concepts to me,” said Joan Charles, who, curious about gadgets, asked for an iPad for Christmas two years ago.
But the panoply of apps, maps, browsers and games felt threatening to her, she said.
Charles’s daughter, despite her good intentions, wasn’t much help. “All she did was show me how to turn it on,” Charles laughed.
Charles said her busy daughter didn’t have time to pass on the skills younger generations absorb as a matter of course. “They don’t teach you, they just grab it and do it for you,” Charles said. “I want to do it for myself.”
Today, Charles downloads library books, listens to music and successfully avoids getting lost with the help of her tablet. “It goes everywhere with me,” she said.
Norma Duffers shares Charles’s sentiment. She feels free and independent now that she can stream videos, play games and read the Jamaica Gleaner without calling her own kids for help. “I don’t need to sit on the phone with my friends,” Duffers explained, now that she can keep herself busy.
One of Charles’s and Duffers’s young teachers from the summer camp, Alyssa Morris-Nelson, admits it was a little hard to maintain her patience at first. Her students, new to the devices, “go a bit slower. They haven’t memorized the keypad,” she pointed out.
But, Morris-Nelson says, one day she’ll probably have to learn an alien technology from her own grandchildren. She smiles shyly at the thought.
“When I’m a senior, I know I won’t be as fast.”