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Learning from digital doers

Ma’ayanot students teach technology to Senior Source elders

Students from Ma’ayanot High School for Girls in Teaneck have been working with members of Senior Source to introduce them to technology. (Ma’ayanot)
Students from Ma’ayanot High School for Girls in Teaneck have been working with members of Senior Source to introduce them to technology. (Ma’ayanot)

What happens when an organization dedicated to improving the quality of life for seniors gets together with an all-girls Jewish high school dedicated to educating future IT geniuses as well as other future members of the work force — and also teaching them to be smart and compassionate human beings that want to help others?

You get TechTime.

On November 19, a group of students from Ma’ayanot Yeshiva High School for Girls in Teaneck will get together with a group of seniors from Senior Source — a meeting place for seniors in Riverside Square mall in Hackensack — for some one-on-one technical instructions about computers, phones, and the like.

This is a great event for many reasons. First, we know that technology changes almost weekly — sometimes even daily — and by the time someone — say a senior — figures out how to use FaceTime, there are 50 new apps she could use to help her with other things.

The Ma’ayanot students give up their free period (usually lunch) to come to work with the seniors. According to algebra teacher Michele Major, who also is the director of educational technology at Ma’ayanot, “It all began when the Jewish Family and Children’s Services of Northern New Jersey reached out to Gila Stein, who is Ma’ayanot’s director of STEAM Education and Innovation. In past years, our students had run genius bar-style events at school, so we thought it would be amazing to bring this to the Senior Source. We decided to pilot two sessions last year and it was a huge success.

Ma’ayanot student Ora Gutfreund works with Douglas Hailes at Riverside Square.

“Our students loved sharing their knowledge of technology and getting to spend time speaking to the seniors. Our students are digital natives; they have grown up constantly using technology. This program fostered amazing conversations and multigenerational relationships.”

Leslie Greenberg, the director of community outreach and marketing at Senior Source, could not stop talking about the impact that the program had on her seniors. She is looking forward to the program this week, as well as to more programs in the future.

Raizel Littwin is an 11th grader from Teaneck; she has done TechTime before. “Not only are you teaching seniors how to use technology, which to some people seems easy, but you are also really forming great relationships with the seniors,” she said. “Being able to talk with the elderly and putting a smile on their faces is something that I love to do, and want to do in the future as a recreational therapist.”

Hadassah Freedman of Passaic, a 12th grader at Ma’ayanot, is an aspiring mechanical engineer. She loves TechTIme. “It is very rewarding to take something that we take for granted and is almost a given to us and transfer it into something that we can help others with who did not grow up with it and need it to be taught to them,” she said. “I got involved to help those who do not know technology because I think everyone should know it and have the opportunity to learn it.”

As someone who has become a big advocate for the elderly — my parents — and for caregivers — both me and the wonderful people who come to my group and other caregiver groups out there — I was so happy to meet Ms. Greenberg, because before I met her I didn’t know anything about Senior Source. I’ve learned that it is a center for seniors who either drive there themselves or have someone who can get them there. It offers nonstop free (that is correct, FREE) programming five days a week, including exercise classes, lectures, concerts, movies. And Leslie is one of the most charming and friendly and dedicated women I have ever met. In future pieces about Senior Source, I will write more about its origins but, for now, I want readers to know about TechTime. If you are interested, please reach out to Senior Source at (201) 342-0962 it will totally be worth your while!

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