Youth volunteers from Cagayan de Oro and Marikina are tech ambassadors to their elder communities
Verlita Parunday of Cagayan de Oro admitted she did not care for smartphones before because she did not know how to use them.
Just when you thought that rapid technological advances had widened the generation gap further, millennials and baby boomers are coming together to bridge it. Under a program initiated by PLDT’s wireless subsidiary Smart, the former teach the latter how to communicate their way, using technology.
Now armed with tech knowledge, even seniors who once admitted not being interested in smartphones are now, just like their millennial partners, unable to resist them.
“We teach everything step by step. It’s more effective,” says Mehmet Ali Halbutogullarri, a volunteer from Cagayan de Oro. He was assigned to Verlita Parunday, who admitted having zero interest in smartphones before attending the Smart Millenniors session in their town.
Smart Communications coined the term “millennior” for seniors who are tech-savvy like millennials.
“I used to leave my phone at home because I did not know how to use it. Now, I cannot leave it even for a moment to eat my snacks,” she jokes.
Teaching her was a breeze, says Mehmet, an IT sophomore at the University of Science and Technology of Southern Philippines (USTP). He says he drew from his experience with his own parents.
“Sometimes our elders get lonely and feel neglected. Once their children move out of the house, there isn’t much left for them to do. When they’re done cleaning the house or cooking, they spend their time thinking about their children,” Mehmet says. Technology could help them communicate and connect with their children and grandchildren, he adds.
“Compared to our elders, we learn and adapt to new technologies more quickly, so it is up to us to teach our parents and grandparents,” Mehmet continues. “It’s just like when they taught us how to walk, talk, and think.”
“It’s a great opportunity to be able to assist our senior citizens,” says Matthew Jimenez, Sangguniang Kabataan chair of Barangay Concepcion Uno in Marikina City. A youth leader setting a good example, he answered the call for volunteer trainers when the Smart Millenniors program held a session in his barangay.
Matthew assisted Joselito Josef, a member of the barangay’s Lupon ng mga Tagapamayapa (council of peacemakers).
“He couldn’t operate his smartphone and log into his apps without the help of his son, who has also memorized his father’s passwords and email address, in case he forgets,” Matthew says. “I showed him how to use the Notes app on his phone to help him remember these details.”
In the Smart Millenniors sessions, the seniors are taught how to use smartphones, mobile data, social media and take a video.
During a briefing, volunteers are given a check list of tasks and handouts to guide them through the sessions. The seniors take home the handouts, handy reference materials when they try out what they’ve learned.
As much as possible, the session is conducted one-on-one, although sometimes, a volunteer may handle two or three senior learners.
Matthew says, volunteers must be patient and kind and willing to listen when teaching seniors so that they wouldn’t be discouraged easily. He also realized that one need not be a certain age to learn technology. “It can really make lives easier,” he says.
True enough, their students are grateful.
“Thanks to Mehmet, I now use social media to keep in touch with my children, who live far away from home,” says Nanay Verlita, a resident of Brgy Lapasan in Cagayan de Oro.
Similarly, Jessie Daclan says her phone is now her connection to her daughter, who works abroad.
While Marianita Yecyec, also of Cagayan de Oro, raves about Facebook and apps, and how social media has become her stress reliever, she also learned to be mindful of its downside. “I must be vigilant so I don’t fall victim to online scams,” she says.
Buoyed by their newfound knowledge, these millenniors have widened their circle of friends. They generally keep in touch with one another and with their tutors, and even the program coordinators.
Remarks Smart Public Affairs head Ramon Isberto: “As the world becomes increasingly digital, we are working to make sure that nobody gets left behind, most especially not our seniors.”
For its efforts in expanding the technological know-how of seniors across the country, the Smart Millenniors program was recently awarded a Silver Anvil at the 54th Anvil Awards. Since its launch in 2017, it has already conducted sessions with seniors around Metro Manila, Laguna, Cebu and Cagayan de Oro.