More than 40,000 of the residents of San Isidro, Argentina, are over the age of 65 – almost a fifth of the city’s population. Many senior citizens, because of a lack of technological knowledge, feel cut off from their families in other parts of Argentina, or in other parts of world. Without the ability to navigate social networking Web sites, or use e-mail or instant messaging, some people can feel left out as the world moves on to new and different means of communication.
Rotary Club Martinez aims to change that with the help of IBM volunteers and an IBM Catalyst Grant, through a project called Juventud Prolongada, or “Prolonged Youth,” spearheaded by Cecilia Valldosera, business office analyst for IBM Global Process Services Delivery.
As part of the program, IBM will help install an IT Lab where technology classes will be delivered to any participant of the program free of charge. IBM volunteers will help with the IT infrastructure, as well as teaching courses at the lab, preparing brochures and course materials, and encouraging the seniors to do things such as learning to use a PC and surfing the Web.
"I hope this project gives the senior citizen the ability to connect and interact with their younger family members or with relatives living abroad," says Cecilia. "I want them to feel that they still can do new things and grow in a personal level. It is very gratifying to know that this project influences the construction of family ties."
A better world starts close to home
Cecilia’s mother attends many activities in the San Isidro elder community, and through interactions with the community, Cecilia was able to identify the need for technology in the lives of the seniors there. A group of IBM volunteers used the model of IBM’s On Demand Community tools to prepare a training kit designed to enable the seniors to use tools like Facebook, Skype, instant messaging, and others.
In Argentina, Cecilia Valldosera helps seniors learn to communicate with the world.
"One of the first things we did with the IBM volunteers was to survey the seniors who were willing to participate in the training sessions," Cecilia says. "They were so excited about our presence there. When answering the questions during the survey they never stop mentioning the honor of being visited by people from IBM."
A total of four training kits will be prepared, on the topics of How to Use the Web, Use of Social Media, Instant Messaging Tools, and Use of Webmail. The IT Lab will include 20 personal computers and deliver trainings for more than 1,000 seniors in all.
"This project gives me personal satisfaction as I am working directly with my local community, but what gives me more satisfaction is interacting with the seniors during classes,” says Cecilia. "The affection that they return is amazing and exciting. They want to learn and progress and it feels so good to be part of something like this. A better world is everyone’s responsibility."