Deepa lives in Chicago and currently works remotely for a Chicago company in systems implementation. Over the past three years, she has taught her grandparents, who live in an assisted living setting in Canada, how to use technology. In addition to regular FaceTime visits, messaging, and photo sharing, Grandma uses her device to watch her favorite soap operas from her native India! Witnessing firsthand the difference technology makes in the life of her grandparents, Deepa realized the importance of digital literacy and internet access for isolated older adults as well as the personal rewards of helping her grandparents get connected.
She decided to fill some of her newfound time from working remotely to volunteer at helping other older adults with technology. A Google search for remote digital learning volunteer opportunities led her to Volunteer Match, where she found CTN’s digital coach opportunity. After her initial conversation with CTN staffer Stephen Minor, she was hooked and excited to get started.
Working with her grandparents had already provided her with insight into the role of digital coaching as well as with the unique skill set required, including patience, persistence, flexibility, and sensitivity. “One of the biggest challenges is the older learner does not have an understanding of what is possible with the internet and a device, so it is hard for them to imagine what they should try to learn,” Deepa said.
Deepa is matched as a digital coach with Carol, a San Francisco resident. They have met for five training sessions to date, and Carol is now successfully using YouTube as well as Zoom (her favorite). At last, she is now able to rejoin her friends online for yoga and meditation sessions. Carol is outgoing and a self-described “social butterfly” who has missed human contact. She is eager to learn and explore and try new things and is not easily discouraged.
Deepa adds, “Being a digital coach is a great opportunity to create connections with someone who has an entirely different background, outlook, and perspective. We are both rewarded by each training session!”