For more information or to volunteer with Technology Bridges:
Before winding down for bed each night, Harriet Boonin, 77, likes to connect with friends and family through the "Words with Friends" crossword game.
She has always been computer literate, but lately Boonin has been learning how to do more with her computers and her phone, with a little help from University of Colorado freshman Juliana Gagné.
Through a program called Technology Bridges, Gagné spends an hour or two each week getting to know Boonin and helping her better understand technologies and programs such as Facebook, Skype, photo sharing, texting and more.
"I wasn't really fully using my computer," Boonin said.
The program is led by CU sophomore Anthony Levy, a student in the Leeds School of Business. He became intrigued by companies that care about doing social and environmental good in addition to earning profits during a social entrepreneurship class he took as a freshman.
He started an internship at Front Range nonprofit Intercambio, where he collaborated with the staff on an idea — help older adults learn technology through volunteer mentoring relationships.
The program now has roughly 25 student volunteers paired with 25 older adults around Boulder.
While the primary focus of the program is on technology, Levy said he encourages all of the student volunteers to really get to know the senior they're working with and find ways to connect on a personal level.
"They have such a wealth of knowledge and experience, and they have so many great stories," he said.
The benefits of the program seem to go both ways. Levy said many of the students feel a lack of connection to older adults when they start college, and Technology Bridges can help fill that void.
Gagné, who's from Connecticut, lived with her great-grandmother for several years growing up.
"It's been really nice (working with Boonin) because I don't have any family out in Colorado, and I feel like I have someone that's like a grandmother to me," she said.
She said she wishes more young people took the time to understand and learn from older adults.
Many of the participating seniors already have a computer or a tablet or a Facebook page, but they're not sure how to get the most out of them.
Boonin, for example, had many of her photos in digital form on her computer. Her mentor Gagné helped her set the photos as a slide show for her screen saver and get them printed out.
Much of what older adults use technology for is to stay in touch with friends and family, Levy said. With Facebook, it's easier than ever to keep up on what grandchildren in other parts of the country are up to, he said, which makes technology an important tool for seniors to stay connected.
Virginia Wight, 87, recently exchanged her desktop computer for an iPad. Before her mentor comes each week, Wight makes a list of all the things she wants to learn how to do better on the device.
She said she's found herself using email and her Internet browser more because the device is portable and easy to use.
"I mostly like communicating, and I always love to look up things," Wight said.
Contact Camera Staff Writer Sarah Kuta at 303-473-1106 or email@example.com.