Fife High School students help seniors get connected

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The generation gap between baby boomers and millennials grows bigger by the day. With technology quickly advancing, it can be harder and harder for seniors to keep up with the newest trends. With no guidance, seniors may have trouble with things that the younger generation has grown up on, including e-mail. This also makes it difficult for seniors to have a voice in legislature; as communication becomes more and more automated, handwritten letters aren’t as quick or effective.

Luckily, local students from Fife High School’s Future Business Leaders of America (FBLA) have been volunteering their time at Mill Ridge Village in Milton, teaching residents how to use helpful communication technology.

Courtney Dirks, Stacey Sibayan and Stephanie Ha spend their Wednesdays giving one-on-one time to Mill Ridge residents, and introducing them to the world of computers.

“When you have young people like ourselves that are really involved with technology, it’s a way that we can help them get connected,” Dirks said.

On March 5, the three students gave the seniors an easy way to contact local legislature though the program Capwiz. Capwiz is an online advocacy program that lets users contact their local legislature with ease. Users can select the issue they wish to support or oppose, such as funds for Medicade, and the site even provides a list of detailed reasons for users to view that they can select to be included in their letter, though complete customization is also an option. Once the letter is complete, Capwiz will automatically send it to every representative in the sender’s area. On March 5, Mill Ridge seniors stepped up to let their voices be heard, with the help of the younger volunteers.

The FBLA students have already introduced the Mill Ridge residents to the ins-and-outs of e-mail and Skype, so residents can communicate with their children and grandchildren.

“They come from a different generation,” resident Helen Skrivanek said. “I haven’t used [my computer] for ages, and it just kind of goes away, you know?”

Without Capwiz and the volunteers, it would be very difficult for seniors to reach every single representative in their area in a quick, easy way.

“This is an easier way to [communicate with legislature], to be here, I think is very important,” Skrivanek said.

Village Concepts, the company behind Mill Ridge Village, hope to expand their senior Skypers program to 10 other assisted living buildings, wherein high school students from all over the state will help senior citizens learn how to communicate.

“These are passionate students who care and advocate for our aging population,” Tracy Willis, director of corporate development said in a press release. “Our residents appreciate the time students spend teaching them how to use digital media to not only stay in touch with their families and friends, but how to use that form of communication to take action.”

The FBLA students plan on continuing to work with Mill Ridge in the coming weeks. Every Wednesday at 3:30, you can find them packed in a room full of seniors, navigating the web.