Posted in digital parenting, online safety, parents and technology, service-learning, technology support, teens and mentoring

Seniors, Cell Phones, and Teen Mentors

I saw this article, Want to Know What Your Cell Phone Can Do? Ask a Teenager, published in a Reston,Virginia edition. It’s a wonderful story and presents an idea — students and seniors working together — that any family, school, or church group can easily replicate.

The article describes how middle and high school students, from the Reston, Virginia area, volunteered to be cell phone tutors with seniors, helping them learn how to use mobile phone features such as texting and checking voice mail. While many of the senior participants attending Cell Phone 101 had purchased phones for safety reasons, most were not able to use other phone capabilities. The student mobile phone mentors demonstrated how seniors could use their phone more effectively, and voicemail tutorials appeared to be especially popular. Students also explained how some of the phone capabilities cost extra money to use.

This is a project that can be replicated in any community, and the work benefits everyone involved. The teen volunteers are sharing information that is essential for seniors to learn, and the students are discovering that people continue to learn throughout their lives, no matter how old they are. Moreover, the teens are, in a way, reviewing important aspects of virtual world citizenship as they help others master digital skills. The elders are increasing their cell phone skills — important for their safety and confidence — but they are also enjoying interaction with young people.

I’d like to know more, especially how much follow-up time the kids had with the elders. I am planning to propose a project like this as a middle school community service project at my school. is a news online service set up to bring local news. It looks like an interesting new venture.

4 thoughts on “Seniors, Cell Phones, and Teen Mentors

  1. This is too cute. I helped my grandma when I got her her first cell phone too and it brought us closer together. Since now she knows how to use it, she’s always calling me and trying to spend more time with me – its so great. Her phone isn’t very complicated to use, its the SVC phone by Tracfone, so its specifically designed for older people her age and made easy to use. The buttons and screen and font is big too to help them to see it better. Cell phones for seniors is so important – especially for their safety!

  2. What these teens do is really cool. But actually, I don’t think there is still a need to familiarize the elderly as to how the complicated cell phones function. The availability of senior cell phones will allow them to enjoy the benefits that a cell phone offers without giving them a headache. Much more, senior cell phones are really more ideal for them as these present the features that the elderly really need such as big buttons, amplified sound, and PERS. My parents are using the Just5 Easyphone that has all of these features including a built-in flashlight and built-in radio. For elderly who would like to check out this phone, you can find is details here:

  3. What a great comment. Thank you, Gabrielle, for taking the time to write and post it.

    I am not quite as certain about products made directly for seniors, mainly because so far the seniors in my family have not wanted senior-specific phones and PERS. They want to do things the way others are doing things — my mother wanting to learn how to text, for instance. My husband’s parents would not use monitors that they had to wear around their necks or wrists. Wireless movement detectors would have been great, but they were not available during the times of their greatest health crises.

    The seniors in my family want really good products with accessibility functions that just happen to be a part of a good product. Check out Laurie Orlov’s Aging in Place Technology Watch for much more information about how seniors think about technology.

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