Colorado State University students help close the digital divide

Sara Petersilie

Junior human development and family studies major Paige Koster shows Ginny Crawford how to sync her iPhone and iPad.
Junior human development and family studies major Paige Koster shows Ginny Crawford how to sync her iPhone and iPad.

Older adults at Fort Collins Senior Center met with Colorado State University students on Wednesday for help with technology during AARP’s Mentor Up event.

Twenty-five human development and family studies students met with seniors for 15 minutes each individually to work with the older adults and improve their technology navigation.

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Christine Fruhauf, a professor at CSU in the department of Human Development and Family Studies, coordinated the event.

“I think it’s been a win-win, for the students and for the older adults,” Fruhauf said.

The event, sponsored and organized by AARP Colorado and Mentor Up, showed a movie called Cyber Seniors for the first half of the event.

Earle Solomonson, an attendee of the event, found the movie quite helpful.

“The movie was magnificent,” Solomonson said. “It was really very interesting and some of the same questions that I have were voiced in the movie so I’m hoping to get a mentor now so I can get it corrected.”

Solomonson had recently purchased an iPad and iPhone to better keep in touch with his family, and was excited to learn how to use them.

“All our kids are into Facebook pretty heavy and I get around some but I’m hoping today that I can pick up some hints that can make sure that I’m going the right way quicker,” Solomonson said.

Bob Willis, another attendee of the tech seminar, found the help worthwhile but thought it could have been more extensive.

“It was too short time wise,” Willis said.

Cathy Lasnik, a co-coordinator of the event and member of AARP Colorado and Mentor Up, knew how valuable the one on one time was for the older adults.

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“I know a lot of them would like to take somebody home with them because they need more help than what they could get here for 15 minutes,” Lasnik said.

While the seminar was helpful to the elder adults, it also gave the student mentors hands-on experience with their gerontology studies.

“Getting to come to the senior center so many of them said ‘Oh my gosh! Dr. Fruhauf, the senior center is gorgeous. I want to do an internship here. How do I work here?’” Fruhauf said.

Fruhauf said the event went even better because the students wanted to help, despite their lack of technological expertise.

“They don’t have a background in computer science or anything like that,” Fruhauf said. “They’re just students willing to work with older adults. Really, from my standpoint, that’s what I hope that the students gain is getting to meet an older adult outside of a family member.”

Collegian Reporter Sara Petersilie can be reached at news@collegian.com or on Twitter @SEPetersilie.