Brand new experience: Students help seniors connect with technology


Eunice Lutes had used a cellphone to make a call, but she had no idea you use one to take pictures or play games or music.

Dora Goforth liked how you could use FaceTime on an iPad.

Edith Durham was fascinated to see herself on a cellphone with various Snapchat filters changing her looks and the sound of her voice.

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Technology has a lot to offer, and these Hoosier Christian Village residents and others at the Brownstown facility recently got to experience a sampling of it.

For the second time in recent years, Brownstown Central High School DECA Club members visited the nursing home for a Granny Gamer program. DECA is an organization that prepares emerging leaders and entrepreneurs in marketing, finance, hospitality and management in high schools and colleges around the globe.

“It’s just something. I guess I’m too old to learn,” Lutes joked after seeing what all you can do with cellphones and tablet computers these days.

Lutes said she’s OK with the advancements in technology as long as the students don’t let it distract them from learning at school.

“I enjoy talking to the kids,” she said, smiling.

Technology isn’t completely new to Hoosier Christian Village.

Several years ago, they started using Nintendo Wii games to help residents with physical therapy. Three Linked Senior stations also have been placed throughout the building, giving residents an opportunity to watch videos, play games and read magazines, among other options.

They also have a few iPads, which allow residents to surf the internet, access Facebook, check email or play games. One also is used in the new memory care unit.

Sandy Criminger, volunteer coordinator at Hoosier Christian Village, said they would like to add more iPads and other technology as funding allows.

“We got those (iPads) a little over a year ago, and it has been a great interaction. A lot of people can get a lot of good stuff on those,” she said. “Hopefully, we’ll grow. I would love to have a cart of Chromebooks. I’d love to have a Smart Board. Boy, we would have a ball.”

Robin Perry, DECA adviser and business teacher at Brownstown Central High School, said the first Granny Gamer program was conducted a couple of years ago.

“I saw the idea in another magazine where a high school group from Texas had done something similar and thought, ‘Well, we’ve got Hoosier Christian Village right in our backyard,'” she said. “It’s a good opportunity to connect kids with older adults and share some of the technology.”

Four students went to Hoosier Christian Village for the first program, and that grew to nine when it recently was conducted again.

“We have seen residents make their first cellphone call, and we’ve seen them become more alert by playing some of the games,” Perry said. “The last time we were here, they were so surprised at how the residents were more alert when we left.”

In one room at Hoosier Christian Village, sophomore Destiny Mowdy and junior Colton Cooper showed three residents how to play Fish Out of Water and try different Snapchat filters and FaceTime.

“They really loved the Snapchat filters. I thought that they would be kind of skeptical about it,” Cooper said.

“They loved it. They were smiling nonstop,” Mowdy said. “They were like, ‘Oh that’s really cool.'”

In another part of the nursing home, freshman Kylene Spall and sophomore Katie Rohlfing showed a couple of residents what could be done on a cellphone, including various apps and Snapchat filters.

“Them just getting to see themselves, the one lady was like, ‘Hey, that looks like me,’ and I was like, ‘That is you,'” Rohlfing said. “It’s just sweet to see them. I know some of these ladies are really sweet, and it’s nice to show them these things. They just enjoyed talking to us.”

Junior Erica Reynolds also was a part of the DECA group at Hoosier Christian Village. She said she works there on weekends and often gets to interact with the residents.

She said it’s great for them to have access to iPads, especially when it helps people with Alzheimer’s disease and those participating in therapy exercises. Some residents also like to sit in the hallways and listen to music on their cellphone or iPad.

“They are moving their hands, and they are getting their minds off of stuff while they are here,” Reynolds said.

Some residents don’t get visitors very often or don’t have family nearby, so the DECA members are happy to spend some time with them.

“Young kids like us coming and visiting them, I think they just love it a lot. You see their faces brighten up,” Reynolds said.

“I love seeing a smile on their faces when we left. That warmed my heart,” Cooper said.

“I really didn’t want to leave,” Mowdy said. “I thought they were going to get upset with me for leaving.”

Sophomore Bridget Hall, president of DECA, said Granny Gamer is a great community outreach activity.

“It’s a way to interact with the community and learn more about people that we normally wouldn’t get to see on a daily basis,” she said. “(The residents) get to learn something they normally don’t do on a daily basis.”

Seeing the residents’ reactions to the technology was eye-opening for Hall.

“They were all really amazed,” she said. “They were like, ‘Wow! I can’t believe your phone can do that.’ To me, that was a ‘Wow! I can’t believe you didn’t know that’ moment. It was like something that’s so simple to us and that we grew up on that’s so new to them that they’ve never seen before.”

Hall said that was a good lesson for the students.

“I hope everyone learned that our phones aren’t all that there is,” she said. “Although we can use our phones to show other people new things, we shouldn’t just focus on that. We should focus more on our community. Even though we’re still young and although we may not be able to do everything we hope we could, we can still help impact other people’s lives.”

Perry said her students had positive takeaways from the experience.

“I hope they get a good feeling in their heart, that their heart has been warmed, that they leave feeling more comfortable with older adults,” she said.

It also was a good experience for the nursing home residents since they now feel more comfortable with technology, Perry said.

“I hope they find it a little less scary because a few of the residents really didn’t want anything to do with the technology,” she said. “That was fine, but I hope that they realize it’s something that they could use, as well, and not to fear it.”

The DECA students were asked to come back to Hoosier Christian Village in May, and Perry said she expects to continue it next school year, too.

“We’ll probably put it on the agenda for next year and see what the students say,” she said. “I have a feeling that they will come back.”