Bridging the Digital Divide: College Students Mentoring Seniors Via an Intergenerational Interdisciplinary Computing Course

Thursday, 2 August 2012: 3:15 PM

Sharon Stahl Wexler, PhD
Lin J. Drury, PhD
Lienhard School of Nursing, Pace University, New York, NY

Learning Objective 1: Design an intergenerational service learning project in their respective location

Learning Objective 2: Discuss appropriate outcome measures for service learning projects

Nursing and Computer Science faculty created an interdisciplinary “Gerotechnology” course that prepares students to mentor older adults in computer literacy. The goal of the partnership is to prepare students for a future living and working in a world dominated by seniors.   Residents of long term care facilities are matched with students who assist with computer and internet use.  The course introduces students to residents with complex chronic illnesses while demonstrating that older adults are vital human beings who grow and change throughout the semester.  

Students have an aging sensitivity experience and practice communication with seniors.  Nursing students assess the physical and cognitive status of the residents. Computer science students adapt equipment to meet residents’ needs. Residents are mentored to overcome their computer fears, learn a new set of communication skills, and be mentally stimulated.  They confront preexisting attitudes about competencies of older adults while sharing their technological skills.  Nursing students monitor ongoing health needs and collaborate with facility staff.  As residents gain skill, they are guided to online health information.

A pretest-posttest design is utilized. Students are assessed on attitudes toward older adults.  The seniors are evaluated on their comfort with technology and cognitive status.  Preliminary data demonstrate a statistically significant change in students’ attitudes toward older adults, and a more positive perspective of careers in gerontology.  Preliminary senior data demonstrates a statistically significant improvement in cognitive function

Cresci, M. K., & Jarosz, P. A. (2010). Bridging the Digital Divide for Urban Seniors: Community Partnership. Geriatric Nursing, 31(6), 455-463.

Seals, C.D., Clanton, K., Agarwal, R., Doswell, F., Thomas, C.M.  (2008).  Lifelong Learning:  Becoming computer savvy at a later age.  Educational Gerontology, 34,   1055-1069.

Seelman, K., Collins, D.M., Bharucha, A.J., Osborn, J.  (2007).  Giving meaning to quality of life through technology.  Nursing Homes:  Long Term Care Management, 56,  40-42.