Lessons from a Gerontologist: Part I

Three years ago, my grandfather gave my sister Nacole and I an opportunity to start a company.

Drawing from personal inspiration, our idea was to help people who have never used technology adopt the iPad.  We started with individual training and later developed a trainer-the-trainer program for retirement communities.  We had no idea what we were getting into.

Starting a company isn't glamorous or lucrative, but helping older adults is incredibly fulfilling.  Our small team has a long road ahead, but I am proud of our progress (our iPad training program is up and running in over 30 communities) and excited for our future.

Over the past year, we've had the pleasure of collaborating with two gerontologists that helped us think outside the box and extend the scope of our services to help older adults in innovative new ways.

Dr. Mary Ligon of York College of Pennsylvania

Facilitating an intergenerational exchange of knowledge and understanding through person-centered iPad activities

Last fall, we participated in a grant from the York Country Community Foundation as part of their embracing aging initiative.  The grant provided funding to purchase iPads for an Intergenerational training program, where gerontology students from York College of Pennsylvania taught members of the White Rose Senior Center how to use iPads as part of their “Working with Older Adults” course.

Dr. Ligon and her students collaborated with our team to select a series of apps to be the focal point for each workshop.  Students took turns leading the group, introducing lessons on relevant technology concepts and specific features within apps.  

Each lesson was reinforced with a hands-on activity that was designed to help students learn more about their partners.  For example, they explored meaningful places via the Maps app, searched on hobbies with Google and listened to music via Pandora. 

During the final week, per the recommendation of Dr. Ligon, students recorded stories from the lives of their partners using the StoryCorp app.  The students were inspired by the stories - from triumphs over personal tragedies to tales of the 1964 World's Fair.  

Throughout the course, there was a really strong exchange of information and emotion between the two generations.  We produced a video to prove it!

During the months following the course, we worked with Dr. Ligon to design a blueprint for other colleges and student organizations to offer an intergenerational program of their own.  The course includes student training activities, equipment recommendations and an outline of lessons with person-centered practice activities.

As my sister and I continue to grow as entrepreneurs, educators, technologists and innovators in the field of aging, we are incredibly fortunate to work alongside the likes of Dr. Ligon.

Checkout Part II on our collaboration with Gerontologist Debby Dodds.