National Honor Society Students Help Seniors Cope with TechnologyDec 27, 2021 01:29PM ● By David Dunbar
Ella O’Rourke (left) and Taylor Grenon prepare to meet a senior citizen having technology challenges.
story & photo by Dave Dunbar, Contributing Writer
Computer anxiety, lack of perceived benefit or need, overwhelming information, fear of the unknown—these are just four of the top reasons why senior citizens struggle with new technology.
Ella O’Rourke, 17, in her final year at Bellingham High School and preparing for a marketing major in college, tells the story of her grandfather’s challenge with technology. “I FaceTime® him and he holds the phone up to his ear,” she says. “No, grandpa, hold the phone out in front of your face so I can see you.”
Ella is one of the leaders of a group of about 70 juniors and seniors at Bellingham High School who plan and participate in dozens of service projects that benefit local groups. One of these projects is “Tech Corner” at the Bellingham Senior Center.
On the second Tuesday of each month, at 2:30 PM, high school students come to the Center to help seniors with their technology problems. Nine of them came last month to spend one-on-one time solving problems with a variety of devices, including cell phones, tablets and computers.
The students are all members of the BHS National Honor Society and give 40 hours on a service project that they very well may have conceived. Ella is vice president of the group. The president is Taylor Grenon, 18, who’s planning to continue her education next year as a pre-med student.
“Our advisor had the idea about ‘Tech Corner’ at the Senior Center,” recalled Taylor. The Center agreed and “Now,” she said, “it’s one of my favorite places to be.” She described the elders who show up as “adorable.”
Ella advises, “Don’t give up. I struggle, too, but you can do it!” Taylor adds, “It’s not as scary as it looks; approach technology in small pieces, and it becomes very manageable.” Technology devices that allow communication (FaceTime® and Zoom®, for example) without physical closeness are especially handy during these COVID times.
“Last month,” said Ella, “we met with a woman about Zoom. We helped her to be able to keep in contact with her grandchildren without actually being in the same room with them. We have weekly meetings, to come up with service projects and ideas for how we can help in a positive way.”
Their help is not just about technology. They did a “backpack drive” for All Saints Church in Woonsocket, RI, that resulted in 130 backpacks filled with gloves, hats, mittens, and food. Their members also participate in the Bellingham snow-shoveling program that aids seniors in keeping their driveways and walkways cleared and safe.