Extra special Grandparents' Day celebration for seniors of Brgy Fortune, Marikina with Smart Millenniors program
Trinidad Bernardo didn't plan any celebration when she turned 71 on September 3. "I’ve had a lot of birthdays, anyway,” she said, content with letting the day pass quietly.
She was in for a surprise. Six days later, she joined a group of senior citizens who were taught how to use a smartphone and social media. Finally she was able to open the Facebook account that her grandchildren set up for her.
Her page was full of greetings sprinkled with heart stickers, kissing emojis, and, of course, selfies. It was like a belated birthday celebration, on social media, at that. So, this is how "millennials" do it, she thought, amused.
That it was also Grandparents Day made the occasion doubly special. She teared up as she read out loud some of her grandchildren's greetings: “Hindi ko po alam kung anong gagawin ko ‘pag nawala ka. Happy Birthday, Lola! Mahal na mahal kita!”
Nanay Trining was among the 50 seniors of Barangay Fortune in Marikina City who joined the Smart Millenniors program held in cooperation with the village Office of Senior Citizen Affairs, Sangguniang Kabataan, and barangay captain Rizalina Teope.
“Millenniors” is a play on the words “millennials”, who are known to be tech savvy, and “seniors”. The goal of the program is to teach technology to the elderly, to make them feel like they, too, can be part of the digital world.
“Seniors are always looking for new things to learn,” said barangay kagawad Romy Silva, who helped organize the event.
Silva, who is in charge of senior citizen affairs in the barangay, is a tech-savvy senior citizen who is more comfortable using social media than his peers. His Facebook page is a mix of selfies with family and photos of the barangay’s activities. In fact, during the session, he went around the room and took selfies with everyone using a selfie stick.
Silva hope that more seniors will be able to connect with him on Facebook. “If they know how to use social media, it will be easier for me and the barangay to keep in touch with them,” he said.
“When I heard about Smart’s activity, I made sure to attend,” said 67-year-old Erlinda Benalon. “I am really eager to learn about technology, especially about Facebook, because that is where my grandkids are.”
Representatives from Smart discussed the basics of smartphones, mobile data and social media. Assisted by Sangguniang Kabataan volunteers led by barangay secretary Angelo Padrogado, the seniors familiarized themselves with their own smartphones, and ask questions, like Nanay Trining’s “What is an email address?”
“I hope that Smart can come back soon so I can ask more questions,” said Nanay Erlinda as the program ended. “In the meantime, I’ll ask my daughter if she has a spare smartphone that I can use so I could practice while waiting for the next session.”
Fellow senior Yollie Ong, 71, was excited to go further than the basics. "I can now start using the iPhone that I’ve been ignoring for so long. I’ll bring it next time,” she said.
After the session, Smart also distributed Grandparents’ Day tokens, making the event even more memorable.
The seniors of Barangay Fortune, Marikina, make up the latest batch of Smart Millenniors. Earlier sessions were held in Barangays 734 and 672, in Paco, Manila; in Cebu, with members of the Philippine Association of Retired Persons, in cooperation with EduStudio and Coalition for Better Education. In Iligan City, the program was held in barangays Dalipuga and Santiago, with volunteers from MSU-IIT School of Computer Studies.
For promoting the teaching of technology among seniors and engaging the youth in this endeavor, the Smart Millenniors program won an Award of Merit at the recent 16th Philippine Quill Awards, and a Silver Anvil at the 53rd Anvil Awards last March.
"We are getting closer to our goal of making Internet truly for all, as more seniors participate in the Smart Millenniors program,” said Smart Public Affairs head Ramon Isberto. “As the world becomes increasingly digital, we are working to make sure that nobody gets left behind.”