Teens’ company keeps seniors connected
Students’ nonprofit corporation helps retirees learn Internet and computer skills.
By William J. Booher
July 17, 2004
About Senior Connects
- Purpose: Teenagers help teach senior citizens in retirement facilities basic and intermediate computer, Internet and e-mail skills.
- Founded: In January, as a youth-managed, nonprofit corporation, with Daniel Kent, of Carmel, a sophomore at Brebeuf Jesuit Preparatory School, listed as its founder.
- Advisory board: Daniel and Dan Ehrman, both 15 and Brebeuf students; and Carmel High School students Matthew May, Chris Gecewicz, Steven Yee, Stafford Brunk, Mustafa Hameed and Jonathan Gurecki, all 15, and Kyle Egbert, Doug Snelling and Ian Arkin, all 16.
- To contact: Call (317) 843-0475 or send e-mail message to [email protected]
- Web site: www.seniorconnects.org
Daniel Kent and his teenage friends are helping dozens of computer-wary retirees in Central Indiana solve the mysteries of the Internet — and in the process, bridge some of the generation gap as well.
What began as a volunteer service project for the high school sophomore has grown into a full-fledged corporation, matching retirees with a growing number of teenagers willing to teach them about computers.
“These kids are absolutely great,” said Edward Grinnan, a retired biochemist who speaks enthusiastically of Daniel, the founder of Senior Connects, who has given him one-on-one instruction.
Daniel, 15, is one of 11 teenagers who make up the advisory board for Senior Connects, a nonprofit corporation he founded in January. More teens are becoming interested.
“I don’t have so much concern for our country,” said the 81-year-old Grinnan, “when kids are raised like that.”
Census data and other studies show people over 65 are less than half as likely as other age groups to own computers or use the Internet.
Daniel, a student at Brebeuf Jesuit Preparatory School, saw an unmet need about two years ago when he was giving computer instruction to older adults in a class at Carmel Clay Public Library.
“A gentleman who I was helping told me he had a friend confined to a wheelchair who was interested in the Internet,” said Daniel. The man’s friend was unable to come to the class.
Daniel checked and could find no one delivering computer instruction to people in retirement homes or assisted-living centers.
He and computer-savvy friends Kyle Egbert and Matthew May, both Carmel High School sophomores, soon were contacting retirement communities.
They reached out to businesses, too, seeking donations of computer terminals and accessories. Daniel and his friends have collected more than 250 terminals, including 80 that recently were used by the Carmel Clay Public Library.
Most of the computers are outdated, but Kyle is experienced at getting them cleaned up and reprogrammed.
“I get off the dirt and get them sanitized,” he said. “I go through and wipe out the drives and get rid of all information. I start with a clean slate and install our version of Windows.”
Senior Connects offers lessons on Saturdays at two independent and assisted-living centers — Forum at the Crossing, 8505 Woodfield Crossing Blvd. on the Northeastside, where Grinnan lives, and ManorCare at Summer Trace, 12999 N. Pennsylvania St. in Carmel.
The nonprofit corporation also plans to offer lessons at Rosewalk on Main, a Carmel apartment complex for people 55 and older, and to any other willing retirement centers in Central Indiana.
Daniel’s father, Don Kent, drives the teen computer instructors to their lesson sites.
“When the kids walk in, they already begin to smile,” he said of residents at the centers.
Kyle said Senior Connects refuses any payment, but “some of them do bake cookies and give them to us.”
They’ve got mail
Kristin Darko, resident service coordinator at Forum at the Crossing, said that while some residents already had some basic computer knowledge, “some didn’t know how to get on the Internet or even turn on the computer.
“Daniel was very patient with them. He showed them and wrote down instructions.”
The pupils have learned more about using e-mail to keep in touch with relatives and friends, play computer games such as Solitaire and call up information on the Internet.
Daniel and his 10 friends on the Senior Connects advisory board get no class credit for their efforts.
At both retirement homes, Senior Connects has provided a main computer terminal available to all residents, as well as smaller terminals for teaching purposes.
Both the Forum and ManorCare pay the monthly Internet and e-mail access costs, but Daniel’s group has offered to tap its fund-raising skills to pay those costs for any interested facilities that can’t afford them.
At ManorCare Grayce Cobel, 86, has just begun an intermediate class from Senior Connects.
“We know enough to stay out of trouble,” she said.
But her classmate, Jody Scott, 82, added: “We still have questions. These boys are just great.”
Call Star reporter William Booher at (317) 444-2607.