Seniors helping seniors | AspenTimes.com

Seniors helping seniors

Abby Margulis
Special to The Aspen Times

Clayton Crawford, co-founder of the Aspen High School Circle of Friends Service Outreach Club, works with Aspen resident Linda Gerdenich, 71, to log into her icloud account on her iPhone at the Circle of Friends Technical Support event.

"I think anyone over the age of 50 needs to adopt a young person to teach them this stuff," Aspen resident Linda Gerdenich said as she sat at a table in the Aspen Senior Center frustrated with her iPhone.

The Aspen High School Circle of Friends club, a service outreach program, hosted its first event with Pitkin County Senior Service Council's Circle of Friends program Wednesday. The students taught seniors how to use devices such as cellphones, iPads, the Kindle Fire and laptop computers.

Mary Landis, a high school senior, worked with Aspen resident Hailey Dart, 69, to teach her how to import photos from her iPhone to her laptop. Landis also showed Dart how to use Microsoft Word. After an hour, Dart was saving documents without Landis' help.

Senior J.J. Ready helped Basalt resident Ed Villavecchia, 81, use his iPad.

"J.J. is teaching me how to use my new tablet," Villavecchia said. "He's working to bring me up to the 21st century."

Gerdenich has owned her iPhone for the past year and a half but still finds it complicated to use. She thinks the Circle of Friends program is a "super idea."

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A crowd of about 20 senior citizens filled the room to learn how to use their devices, and all the students were eager to help.

"The best news for me is that I'm not the only one having issues with this," Gerdenich said.

Landis agreed that even for her, using technology can be difficult.

"It doesn't matter how old you are," Landis said. "It's tough and gets confusing."

Landis and Clayton Crawford, another Aspen High School senior, attended their first Circle of Friends technical-help event on Aug. 22. After coming out to the event and having a good time, the two decided to create the high school club with the help of their adviser Barbara Bloemsma, a member of the Senior Service Council. The Senior Service Council created Circle of Friends two years ago. It wanted to make a program to facilitate multigenerational events promoting friendship among all ages in the community, Bloemsma said.

The council chose to provide the older generation with technical assistance to create an avenue for young people to connect with them.

This is the third technology event to be held, and now, with the high school students joining forces with Circle of Friends, they have hopes to expand. They want to involve younger students and host a variety of events such as bingo or bowling to continue to form new relationships between generations.

Attending his second event, Crawford appreciated the interactions with the senior citizens and the opportunity to meet new people.

"It's not just about helping them with technology," Crawford said. "It's about sitting down with them and talking with them about life."

Crawford worked with Gerdenich to help her log on to her iCloud account on her iPhone. They didn't just work on Gerdenich's phone, though. They also got to know each other, talking about what Gerdenich has done during her 71 years and Crawford applying to colleges.

"The real truth of this is building relationships," Bloemsma said. "What's really beautiful is the exchange between young people and old people."

Abby Margulis is an editorial intern working at The Aspen Times this fall. She is a junior at DePauw University in Indiana.