Having previously worked with senior citizens, the story of Franklin Academy’s Hannah Brown’s senior project really got my attention. If you are reading this blog, you may very well be doing so from a laptop computer or some other form of mobile computing device. Now I’d like to ask you to stop for a minute & really think about my following questions. Do you remember the first time that you used a smart phone? How about the first time you used a tablet? A laptop? A desk top computer? If you were to ask me, I can recall the first time I used a desk top computer but that’s it. The laptop, the tablet/iPad & smart phone…not so much. This is likely because over the past decade, use of these items has just become a part of my daily routine. I don’t have to think about how to turn them on/off and how to use their most basic functions. It’s almost like it’s intuitive. But that’s for me; being in my early 30s, I have pretty much grown up with these incredible advances in technology. Imagine living 80+ years without an iPad…or a smart phone, the INTERNET??? Can you do it? Can you really imagine that? No more information about any and every thing at the touch of a finger. No more instant access to your financial information, instant directions to wherever you need to go, instant notification about what your friends and family are doing. There is no question, these technology advancements have made life easier & the pace faster.
Sixteen-year-old Hannah Brown is a student at Franklin Academy High School, a charter school in Wake Forest, NC. In an effort to earn the Gold Award, the highest honor for Girl Scouts, and to complete her senior project, Hannah has created an iPad lab at The Lodge at Wake Forest. The Lodge at Wake Forest is an independent senior-living community, operated by Holiday Retirement. The project aims to help residents stay in touch with long-distance family members and to help keep aging minds sharp with apps and games.
As reported in the Wake Weekly, Hannah Brown has often volunteered at The Lodge and was struck with the idea about a year ago. Her initial goal was to raise enough money to be able to donate 3 iPads to The Lodge; with the help of Bob Luddy and Thales Academy, Hannah was able to soar past that goal. The Cyber Seniors iPad Lab now has 20 iPads with chargers and cases.
The article goes on to state that Hannah came upon the idea after searching online for a way to help the elderly & conduct her senior project to fulfill volunteerism requirements. Hannah is quoted as saying, “For my project, I knew I wanted to incorporate some of the Luddy Outcomes that I have learned in school. Two of those outcomes are to be lifelong learners and technologically wise. Additionally, I wanted them to stay connected with their families in the rise of the technology age. I’m super excited to start this project. I hope the residents of The Lodge will benefit.” Hannah plans to hold workshops throughout the year that are aimed at teaching residents how to use the iPads. The workshop topics will be determined based on the interests of the residents. She plans to track their learning through the use of surveys.
Speaking from my own personal observations, it’s very exciting to see the eagerness to learn in this age demographic. According to the AAHSA, the average age of a person living in an independent living facility is 84. Making the decision to leave their home and move into an independent or assisted living community is often a very hard decision; many conflicting emotions come into play here. For many that I met, making this decision to move was an acknowledgement that time is passing and living a life of independence is no longer the best option or possible. For a generation raised on the values of hard work and independence, that’s a tough pill to swallow and can be a major blow to their sense of worth. Keeping residents engaged in activities that challenge them both intellectually and socially is vital to their quality of life. I think Hannah has hit on a really great idea with her project. There are so many apps available that will help residents maintain their cognitive abilities. There are your obvious choices of cross word puzzles & word searches and in addition, it’s a great way to connect them with activities they may have enjoyed at another stage in life. I love the Yesterday USA app…it broadcasts “old time radio shows” all day, every day. What a great way to help people hang on to those memories of days gone by. And how can you not get excited to see your friends and family members thanks to apps such as FaceTime and Skype? Way to go Hannah!