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Bridging the digital divide

MSU Denver students tutor AARP members in technology.

March 30, 2015

MSU Denver students offered AARP members technology tutorials earlier this month. PHOTO: Trevor Davis
MSU Denver students offered AARP members technology tutorials earlier this month. PHOTO: Trevor Davis

While more and more seniors are using technology, they still lag behind younger generations. To help them get up to (high) speed, MSU Denver partnered with the Colorado branch of the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) and hosted "Mentor Up," a hands-on informational technology event on March 11.

Nearly 50 students, many from the Department of Social Work, were paired with 60 AARP members for one-on-one technology tutorials that covered topics such as email and tablet usage, social media and applications like Skype and FaceTime. Additionally, the students and seniors watched the documentary, "Cyber-Seniors," which follows a group of older adults as they discover the wonders of the Internet with the help of teenage mentors.

"As a public urban institution, we are committed to giving back to our local community by creating educational and learning opportunities for people of all ages and backgrounds," said Mark Potter, MSU Denver associate vice present for academic and civic collaboration. "When AARP approached us with this opportunity, we saw it as a true win-win for our students and the community. Students are helping seniors overcome potential technology communication barriers, while refining their interpersonal skills."

"Teaching seniors technology is just as helpful for us as it is for them," said Julie Harris, president of MSU Denver’s Student Association of Social Workers and volunteer coordinator of the event. Harris mentioned three classes that offer opportunities to volunteer in lieu of class time, which allow students to gain social work mentorship experience.

Due to the success of "Mentor Up," the University strives to repeat the program in the fall.