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Boston non-profit's "tech cafe" helps seniors navigate phones and computers

Boston non-profit's "tech cafe" helps older adults navigate phones and computers
Boston non-profit's "tech cafe" helps older adults navigate phones and computers 02:49

BOSTON - The rapidly growing pace of technology can be it difficult for older adults. But a Boston non-profit is helping bridge the gap while building some meaningful relationships.

Little Brothers Friends of the Elderly Boston has three core programs - the Digital Dividends tech literacy program, Creative Connections (which exposes older adults to art, by bringing in an instructor), and their City Sites program, which consists of bringing small groups into spaces where older people live and fellowship.

Tech Cafe is a part of their City Sites program at The Peterborough Senior Center. It's not a place to eat, but the older adults who attend are certainly gaining something that's good for the soul.

From laptops to tablets to smartphones, all of the bases get covered at the Tech Cafe.

"I sat down, the girl showed me everything, wrote it on a piece of paper. Step by step she showed me -and it was so simple!" exclaimed Brenda Howard, one of the Tech Cafe participants.

She told WBZ-TV her life wouldn't be quite the same if she never found out about the cafe.

"I have learned so much," Howard said.

Making technology easy to digest is just one of the goals.

"I like learning, I ask a lot of questions, and if I can learn 10 things in a day, that's good. I like that!" said another participant, Brenda Clark.

"LBFE's mission is to relieve isolation and loneliness among older adults," said Nikki Shults, Executive Director of LBFE Boston.

Shults said they do this with the help of Northeastern University students like Stacy Abonce and Barbara Ortiz.

Abonce worked with Clark to create labels. But it's what Clark has learned from Abonce that really sticks with her.

"I think I learned how to be a little bit more patient, because when I can't figure something out on my own, I get frustrated. And she's helped me to just go through things so smooth," Clark told WBZ.

"I feel like working with her has made me realize that it's OK to ask for help when you don't know something and it's not something to be ashamed of. That can be applicable, not just [with] technology, but anything, especially being a college student," Abonce said.

Ortiz said her focus with Howard has been navigating Amazon.

"I feel like I've become a pro at my computer and my laptop and my cell phone. Yes, I feel like when I go home, I'm not afraid to do anything with it," Howard proudly shared.

"It feels good. It feels like we're actually doing something with our community," Ortiz told WBZ.

A community they're building both inside and outside of these walls.

"We share our lives. We talk about different things, we send each other cards, all we give each other, birthday cards and things like that, we are really a community. It's a real community," Clark said.

Shults said they have about 100 students each year and 500-to-600 older adults who participate in all of their programs.

If you want to help, LBFE says you can start by reaching out to isolated older adults in their communities, hosting intergenerational get-togethers, making holiday cards for LBFE to give to their program participants, or starting a pen-pal friendship with an older adult.

The non-profit said its goal is to reach and support more older adults and to expand their programming. Right now, LBFE is currently in 30 public and affordable housing buildings and by 2024 they'll be in 50, but they want to reach all public and affordable housing in Boston (which is more than 100)

For more information, visit their website.

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