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Seniors Learn Technology in the Richmond

On Saturdays, seniors from the Richmond District spend a few hours learning how to use their tablets or smartphones to keep connected to their families and friends. Derek Tan and Carolyn Chen talk about their experiences teaching the class and what the new Richmond Community Hub will mean for the program.

Derek Tan
Tablet Class Instructor

How did you become involved with the seniors tablet class?

There are many seniors who have a smartphone or tablet but don’t know how to turn on their phone or how to text. As a community, we need to do something to help them so they can keep connected. I’ve had many instances in which seniors asked me to help them download apps such as maps to help them check the bus schedule. So I asked myself: Why don’t we make a class for them and tutor them? That’s why I joined the senior tablet class.

What are the general things that you teach the seniors during these classes?

We mostly teach them how to use apps they use daily or ones they use the most. The most popular ones are the bus apps, maps, and video editing. Other popular ones are video apps such as YouTube and news apps which provide a source of information. And right now we are focusing on social media apps such as Facebook and Instagram. We teach seniors how to create accounts and login and show them how to find their friends.

What do you think the seniors like the most about the tablet class?

They mostly enjoy asking us a lot of questions. Questions like “Can you help me find this place that I want to go?” or discounts from the internet at stores they shop at like Safeway.

How will the Richmond Community Hub benefit the tablet class?

I think it will be good when we can have two tablets classes going in the Richmond at the same time. Currently, there is a waiting list and we are at capacity and don’t have enough space for everyone. I also think it will be great if seniors can come by the Hub and pop in and ask questions anytime if they need help. Right now, they don’t have that option. With a bigger space, the class can be offered to additional seniors outside of the API community, such as the local Latinx community.

Carolyn Chen
Tablet Class Instructor

How did you initially get involved with the seniors tablet class?

I volunteered with Youth for Community Engagement (YCE) program during high school. After I graduated and went to college, Kayi, who was the YCE coordinator, asked me if I would like to come back and continue to work with youth to help seniors learn how to use their tablets. Our high school had tablet classes with seniors through CYC’s Adopt-A-Senior Building program. Kayi thought I had the experience to come back and help teach the class.

What do you enjoy the most about teaching the class?

We help seniors, and they are really happy about it. A lot of them keep coming every month, even though we teach the same things they already learned before. They say because they are seniors they learn things slowly and like to learn over again and again. Seniors also enjoy that we keep them company and talk to them. When they’re happy, I’m also happy.

What do the seniors enjoy the most about coming to the class?

They enjoy learning about new apps that they can use to talk to people in China or watch news. They also ask us questions outside of class so we can help them fix issues with their phone that often occur when people play around with different apps and settings and the phone ends up in a weird state.  

What are some favorite apps that the seniors like to use?

Seniors really like YouTube and WeChat. With WeChat, they can talk to their friends, and they all love to help each other and even add each other as friends. They use WeChat to organize social activities such as shopping at the supermarket. Seniors also use WeChat to ask us questions through the app outside of class. YouTube is another popular app because they like to watch videos, and we teach them how to subscribe to their favorite channels. Because Chinese and Cantonese news isn’t popular in the U.S., seniors also use YouTube to get their information.

How will the Richmond Community Hub benefit the tablet class?

Right now, the tablet class space is very small and can only fit twelve people. With the new building, we will have a bigger classroom and will be able to take in more people so there will not be as many people on the waiting list as there is right now. The classrooms will also support better A/V equipment with larger screens and high-tech audio. Seniors generally have a more difficult time seeing and hearing. I also think that seniors can come by for drop-in services whenever they need help for technology. There are also a lot of Cantonese and Mandarin -speaking seniors in one class and we have interpreters that help them. There is an opportunity to separate the classes as well as offer classes in English.