Health

Watch Out Millennials, Tech-Savvy Seniors are Catching Up

Isabela Cuerpo-Clark listened to a presentation on accessing medical information at the Interactive Technology and Health Fair for older adults at the George L. Stevens Senior Center.
Isabela Cuerpo-Clark listened to a presentation on accessing medical information at the Interactive Technology and Health Fair for older adults at the George L. Stevens Senior Center.

It’s not just about being able to see the latest photos of your grandchildren anymore. Older adults are learning about computer programming and how using technology can help them feel younger and less isolated.

The County of San Diego’s Health and Human Services Agency, the City of San Diego Parks and Recreation Department and community partners held an Interactive Technology and Health Fair for older and disabled adults Thursday at the George L. Stevens Senior Center.

“Seniors – and I’m a senior myself – are joining the millennials,” said Rosemary Pope, executive director of the Fourth District Senior Resource Center. “We’re learning all the modern technology to keep up. If you don’t, you’re going to be left out.”

According to Pope, seniors look younger, feel younger and act younger when they interact with technology.

“They’re learning everything they want they can get online,” she said. “You can get your prescription filled, get a doctor’s appointment, everything is online and seniors are excited to learn how to access those things.”

Isabela Cuerpo-Clark, a 71-year-old from Chula Vista, is one of those older adults who’s learning and sharing her knowledge with others.

“I am curious about technology. I know how to do my iPhone and stuff like that but I need to learn more about how to interact and not be intimidated by technology,” she said.

She just had an incident this week where becoming tech-savvy helped her avoid being overcharged by a rental car company. They had charged her an administrative fee twice on a trip to Bremerton, Washington.

“I had to prove to them that I had already paid it, and why should I be charged another fee?” she said. “I had to take a picture of the bill with my phone.

“If I didn’t know how to do things like that, I’d be lost. We have to really know how to do technology and keep up with that. It’s a good learning process for us seniors. We need our minds to be stimulated.”

Cuerpo-Clark teaches adult Sunday school at Eastlake Church and found that many of the seniors that attend were in a similar situation to herself.

“A lot of the seniors are afraid and that’s one of the hindrances that intimidates a lot of my members is they don’t know how to operate (their smartphone).”

Her husband is comfortable with technology so he helps out with teaching their friends, but Cuerpo-Clark said after the technology fair she’d feel more comfortable offering advice to others as well.

The Fourth District Senior Resource Center also offers on going computer classes at the George L. Stevens Senior Center.

The Center’s computer lab has 14 computers donated by the San Diego Futures Foundation and has beginner and intermediate classes offered several times a year.

“Our classes are full and have waiting lists,” said Pope. “Some of the times they have to share computers in class.”

But that’s not necessarily a bad thing.

“Sometimes they have to partner up on the computer, but they help each other, they really like that interaction and it keeps them from being at home and having a pity party. That socialization is important,” she said.

Pope said a lot of times, participants may have just lost their spouses and learning technology helps keep them connected.

“It’s a part of the healing process,” she said. “Being able to help each other. It’s a sense of empowerment and belonging. Its self-worth and dignity.

“It’s opened a whole new arena. It keeps them from feeling so isolated. They enjoy the comradery, they text each other and keep up with each other.”

Older adults used to want to learn technology to participate in chat rooms, said Pope, but now they’re excited by FaceTime and many are expanding well beyond using apps and simple tasks.

“The seniors are learning amazing things. Seniors are interested in computer programming now and they are really interested in making programs.”

Pope said with things like the technology fair and computer classes, older adults knowledge is growing by leaps and bounds.

“This might be the first technology fair we’ve had here, but it’s not going to be the last one,” she said.

“I tell you, we’re with the millennials now!”

Tom Christensen is a communications specialist with the County of San Diego Communications Office. Contact