November 2017

Young volunteer makes technology easy for senior living residents

Joseph Sinkovits provides technology training to Topton resident Donna Fike.

When you look at the characteristics of Gen X, Gen Y and Gen Z, one constant emerges: increasing use of and familiarity with technology.

In fact, many older adults may lament that it sometimes feels as if children today are born with a cell phone in their hand. Of course, that sense is probably a given, because young people today cannot remember a time when there weren’t computers, video games and the internet.

It’s a different story for older adults, who recall the times when, as Back to the Future points out, no one had more than one television.

In fact, many older adults still remember when color televisions were the newest “technology,” when there were only a handful of channels to choose from and they had to get up from their chair to change the channel. They have witnessed the introduction of the microwave oven, the fax machine and of course the now-ubiquitous computer.

That does not mean many older adults have not welcomed new technology. In fact, for a time, older adults were among the fastest-growing demographic on Facebook.

Sometimes, however, technology—as the television commercial that portrays visiting grandchildren as helpful tech support humorously points out—does not come as naturally to some older adults.

Fortunately, residents of The Lutheran Home at Topton have found that support—in a young volunteer.

“I felt that I could use what I know to help seniors ...”

Joseph Sinkovits, a 16-year-old junior at Moravian Academy in Bethlehem (and son of Topton Activities Director Karen Sinkovits), has stepped in to help.

This summer, the youth presented his “Gadgets Class” twice a month. Usually, four to six different residents attend each class, though he also, his mother says, “gets quite a few repeat customers!”

In each class, he has shown residents how to send and receive email, navigate a “smart phone,” set up accounts for social media such as Facebook and Pinterest, connect printers to computers and even how to program “fit bands.”

“I am very interested in technology,” the student says, “and felt that I could use what I know to help seniors.”

And residents are thrilled, they report.

“In just 15 minutes, I feel more knowledgeable,” says Frances Clifford. “Joseph helped me to eliminate things I didn’t want and showed me how to keep the things I did want.” 

Donna Fike, another resident, adds that “I really appreciated [his] skill and knowledge in helping me figure out how to better use my iPad. He shows maturity and organization well beyond his 16 years.”

“It has been a wonderful experience observing a younger and an older generation sharing thoughts and ideas,” says Karen Sinkovits. “I believe that both Joseph and the residents get far more out of the ‘classes’ than just technology advice.”

The youth is continuing to visit The Lutheran Home at Topton once a month to assist residents with technology.

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