Technology lessons; the roles are reversed as the students teach the adults

Time moves in a funny way.

I don’t have the faintest idea where the metaverse is,” Clarence Henkel, 89, said with a laugh. “I don’t know if it’s part of the universe or the other way around.”

Either you keep up with the changes or you risk being left behind.

If the phone rang,” recalls Mike Carney, who is 76. “You walked up to the phone, picked it up off the wall and said, ‘Hello.'”

The latest and greatest in an era becomes obsolete in just a few years.

And it was spinning,” Mike continues. “If you wanted to dial it, it was, ch-ch-ch-ch, ch-ch-ch-ch.”

I heard it’s annoying,” said 16-year-old Mia Vetter. “Because my grandpa likes to talk about it.”

A different kind of class is taking place this fall at Kewaskum High School.

I was just telling this girl how we had to get off the couch and go up and turn the little black and white TV on and off,” Mike said.

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It bridges the generation gap.

Bunny ears?” said a puzzled Caitlin Scannell. “Maybe during Easter? I do not know.”

Caitlin and Mia are juniors at Kewaskum. But once a week these students become teachers.

They volunteer to teach a technology class for seniors, partnering with the Washington County Aging and Disability Resource Center.

“Because high schoolers are a lot smarter than I am when it comes to technology,” said ADRC Director Tammy Anderson of why she organized — not taught — the class.

I don’t have any kids, no nieces, no nephews,” said class participant Sandy Bohn of West Bend. “So anything I learn, I have to find information somewhere.”

The goal is to open the doors to a sometimes frightening world.

Every time I’ve touched them in the past,” Clarence said of the smartphones. “They did something they weren’t supposed to do.”

There have been some bumps in the road in getting this pilot program off the ground.

“‘Okay. Go to your messaging app,” Mia said, recalling their first class. “And all of a sudden someone yelled, ‘What’s an app?’ And so we both had to be brought back by it. “Oh, we’re so behind.”

In many ways, it’s like learning a new language.

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Cookies?” said Clarence. “Well tell you what, I’ve got some in my bag.”

Like any good startup, the girls recalibrated on the fly—focusing on simple tasks like texting, emailing, and video calling, and even the most confusing of concepts—emoticons.

I had a guy,” Mia said. “We went through every single emoticon, which took a while.”

He wanted to do the laughing-crying emoji,” Kaitlyn said of another date. “But he did the actual crying, sad emoji. So his daughter probably thought he had a bad experience.”

Although the tone of the class is light and self-deprecating, the reason for this is no laughing matter.

There’s a movement now that focuses on social isolation and loneliness,” Tammy explains.

Studies show that nearly a quarter of US adults age 65 and older are socially isolated, and living this way significantly increases a person’s risk of premature death from any cause. There is a 50% increased risk of dementia and about a 30% increased risk of heart disease or stroke.

If you’re just sitting at home and there’s cobwebs building over you, what’s the use?” said Mike. “I want to learn some of these things.”

Leave it to this former teacher to be a model student.

The third door over there says it,” Mike continues, referring to a sign in the classroom. “Never stop learning because life never stops teaching.”

Some people always think that technology divides us,” Caitlin said. “But if you look at it, it kind of brings us together.”

Although many of these students are in their fall years, it’s never too late to turn over a new leaf.

Well, except for one thing.

I’ve heard of TikTok,” Clarence said. “But I don’t know anything about it.”

“Um, there’s always a chance,” Caitlin said, laughing. – But I don’t know if it will be during this session.”

Kewaskum hosted two different sessions this fall, with the last class on Nov. 29. They plan to continue the program next year. In fact, there is already a waiting list.

ADRC organizers hope other schools will consider similar programs, sharing knowledge and experiences across generations.

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