“My learner is interested in my success, and I’m interested in her success,” says volunteer digital coach Ariana Chen. “I love how passionate the older adults are to learn, grow, and figure out what they want in their life.”
A senior at USC, Ariana studies gerontology and hopes to become a geriatrician. She is passionate about working with older adults and understanding their specific needs. While searching for volunteer opportunities that would allow her to work with older adults directly, Ariana came across CTN’s digital coach program.
Since then, Ariana has worked with two learners in her native language, Mandarin, and recently began working with a third. One thing she has learned is that building a personal connection is crucial to the learner’s success: “After the basics, they might not know exactly what else they want to learn. I have to really get to know them and use what I learn to formulate my own lessons to teach them things they might want to learn.”
Her learner Jules, for example, wanted to use technology to maintain his singing and choir practices. Working together, Ariana and Jules found different digital tools and apps that would allow him to share his audio over Zoom, harmonize with others, and back his vocals. “When you teach someone something, you learn from that too,” says Ariana. “Being able to go through everything with them, helping them figure out what is best for them, makes me feel good too.”
As she gains insight and friendship from her learners, Ariana is also helping to transform lives. “One of my learners told me that he used to work this job he loved, but then the whole company transferred to working with technology only. He was struggling to learn that and ended up having to leave his job. Now he is so excited to learn all these new skills and navigates the internet successfully. He says that he wishes he had this program during that whole transition period. Maybe he could have worked for longer.”
Ariana’s experience highlights the importance of intergenerational friendships. While young people often have a robust digital skill set, older adults have a wealth of life experience. Volunteers and learners are set up to have a mutually beneficial relationship. Consider signing up to volunteer today!