MILFORD >> High school mentors are teaching seniors to use smartphones, tablets and the Internet.

When Lauralton Hall High School faculty member Peg McGowan happened to see the documentary “Cyber-Seniors” on YouTube, she instantly thought it would be a great fit for her students.

The Canadian film followed senior citizens who discovered the world of the internet with the guidance of tech-savvy teenage mentors.

The local students were extremely enthusiastic about creating a program here and held an information seminar at the Milford Senior Center last spring, McGowan said.

“The response was incredible and the program took off,” she said.

This year, 20 students have been assigned a “senior buddy.” In December, they met one-to-one to discuss which devices the seniors were using and their goals for learning.

They met Jan. 11 at the Milford Senior Center for their first mentoring session of 2017 and will continue to meet weekly.

“As digital natives, these young women can teach their older protégés how to navigate technology and use devices such as smartphones, tablets and computers,” said McGowan.

The girls help with basics such as how to turn phones on and change “wallpaper,” to more complex instruction on using Skype and setting up a Facebook page, she said.

The Lauralton Hall students were trained last spring through the Cyber-Seniors program director/webinars. Since the school had at least 10 committed students, they received access to the materials for free. Each mentor received a handbook to use as a lesson plan.

The girls receive service hour credit for any time spent at the center, but often lose track of time because they are so involved with what they are doing, McGowan said.

“There are some girls who returned this year who are with the same Senior Buddies they had last year, so it’s a great bond. Even though our students are doing the teaching, they are learning from the older generation as well. I love going over there to watch them interact and laugh with each other,” McGowan said.

The idea for the documentary came from a high school project launched by two sisters in Canada in 2009. The teens had seen how using the internet had transformed their grandparents’ lives. After learning some basic skills, their grandparents were in touch several times a week by email, Facebook and Skype. The internet was instrumental in keeping their family connected despite busy schedules and living in different cities.

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