We’ve all had that conversation with our grandparents, in which we painstakingly try to instruct them – for the eighth time – how to open the internet browser to send an email. Recognizing this digital divide in the way seniors access the internet, Amanda Del Balso, Community Affairs Co-Lead and AdWords Account Manager at Google Cambridge, decided to take action.
After spending time in Dublin last year, Del Balso observed the Google team out there participating in the Age Engage program, which aims to equip seniors with basic internet skills to improve their quality of life. The program, she thought, would be well-suited for the Boston-area, and once returning stateside, Del Balso vetted out a pilot program with the local team at Google Cambridge.
In a partnership with Cambridge Community Television (CCTV), Google Cambridge launched the Age Engage pilot program in December with about 20 seniors attending two, 2-hour class sessions. The classes are unique in that they level the intense love Googlers have for the internet and channel that into one-to-one training for seniors. The curriculum is loose, explains Del Balso, and while the team aims to establish general search and email skills, each student possess a different skill level, and the classes are really tailored to their individual needs.
“The levels of people that come in really vary, so that’s where the beauty of one-to-one pairing comes in,” says Del Balso. “That student walks away with four hours of one-to-one, intensive tutoring.”
As you can imagine, the stories behind Age Engage are pretty inspiring and demonstrate a true sense of community-building that comes with the program. Del Balso describes a story of a Googler helping tutor a woman on Google Maps, and after a few searches, they discovered they live within blocks of one another. In another example, Del Balso helped teach a woman how to upload photos into a program that would allow her and her mother to virtually try on glasses.
“We work on the computer all the time,” says Del Balso of the Age Engage staff of Google volunteers. “I think it’s a really nice marriage of Google’s values of making the internet accessible to all people in a really easy way…It’s quality of life improvement in such an engaging way.”
The program will be ramping up more classes in the coming months, with the ultimate goal of providing one-on-one tutoring to 250 local seniors before the end of the year. “Moving forward, we’re really going to try to focus on improving the in-class experience for the students already coming, and see how we can make it bigger or better,” says Del Balso.
Image via CCTV