Taylor Glas-Hochstettler joined our Digital Literacy Corps in May 2016 and tutors at the Castro Senior Center. Here he shares a bit about his experience as a volunteer and the difference he is making through the assistance and support he provides learners in using technology.
I first started working with seniors and technology after college. I was lucky enough to land a job at a local research facility that was doing a study on a possible link between the development of Alzheimer’s and computer use in elderly participants. One of the many things I learned from that experience is that while the elderly are often isolated from the general public due to physical limitations, they have a wealth of knowledge and experiences they are more than willing to share if we only learn to ask and listen.
Moving to San Francisco was a big leap of faith for me. I didn’t come for a job, and I didn’t even have a room when I first moved here. I made the move to get involved in user experience design. I was fortunate and had the opportunity to enroll in a few local courses that hosted some of the founding pioneers of user experience with an emphasis on user-focused design. While I was working away trying to solve problems of usability for startups ranging from how to bring internet content to people familiar with Facebook, Google, Twitter, and other commonly used internet services, I always knew I wanted to end up working with seniors and exploring the difficulties and challenges that they face when using technology that many younger people take for granted. Volunteering for CTN has given me a perfect opportunity.
Since then, I have had the privilege of working with a wonderful group of seniors who challenge me every session with a variety of questions and problems ranging from how to get photos of their lives and loved ones off their phones and onto their computers, to more urgent issues such as keeping their government-sponsored housing unit.
This experience has reinforced the need to truly span the digital divide. This likely won’t come from a large startup or tech firm, but from the roots up, from organizations such as CTN and the efforts of locals connecting with others in need. You can design the most amazing and elaborate app or program in all the world, with all the bells and whistles attached. If your user base can’t use it, though, it may as well be useless. With more and more elderly in the world (it’s a fact: people do get older) that user base is going to grow and grow. It’s time to start designing for them.