A native of the UK, Jack Fellows originally moved to California to complete his MBA in data analytics. While finishing up his degree, he wanted to invest in the community and give back in some way. Though he didn’t quite have the means to donate financially, he could donate his spare time as he hunted for postgrad employment. This led Jack to find CTN’s volunteer digital coach opportunities. Realizing it would make a great fit for his background in tech, Jack applied and completed his volunteer training in early November.
Since then, Jack has completed his digital coaching lessons with Home Connect learner Claxton. Each week, the two met virtually to work on new digital skills — from using YouTube, finding social services, enjoying music, to using communication tools. Claxton was especially excited when he learned to respond to his daughter’s emails without having to call her.
“With these types of programs, you think, ‘I’m just going to help someone with technology and help them use it,’ but it’s much more than that,” Jack reflects. “It’s for people to socialize and talk to someone new. My learner and I have established quite an emotional connection. I even sent him some potted plants for Christmas!”
Jack’s experience with Claxton was so rewarding that he sought out more volunteer opportunities. In December, he started working with learners in person at the Curry Senior Center. Here, Jack would answer tech questions, have conversations and build connections, and assist older adults in learning to use a Fitbit device to monitor their fitness. “It was so inspiring to see that, even at that age, they all had goals and ambitions,” he says. “They wanted to do all these different things. It was lovely to talk to them about that.”
One reason Jack feels technology is so important for older adults is the sense of agency it provides them. His learner Claxton, for example, would receive emails about his accommodation, potential benefits, and programs to sign up for. Yet before his digital literacy classes, he couldn’t participate in these activities and always depended on other people’s support. With the help of a digital coach — who is willing to work at a slow pace and support a healthy learning environment — older adults can use digital resources independently.
After going home for the holidays, Jack remains in the UK with student visa complications. He plans on jumping back into his volunteering upon returning to the States, but for now, Jack offers the following encouragement to prospective volunteers: “People might not expect to feel so good after teaching someone a new skill or having a conversation or cheering someone on. But I think that’s a big reason people should sign up to volunteer. It adds value to your life, and it gives others a sense of joy and satisfaction. You’re sharing something and helping improve other people’s lives.”