Health Care, Higher Education, and Technology

Aquinas students teach Clark residents how to use social media

Service project unites students with local retirement community.

September 12, 2014
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Aquinas students teach Clark residents how to use social media
Aquinas College students are updating Clark Retirement Community residents on the newest technology advances, as part of a college outreach program. Courtesy Aquinas College

Tech-savvy Aquinas College students are volunteering to help seniors learn how to communicate in real-time with family members and friends.

As part of the college’s Project Unite community service initiative, students visited Clark Retirement Community recently to teach residents how to use social media ahead of National Grandparents Day, which was Sept. 7.

Students worked with seniors to show how social media can provide an opportunity for communication, with a goal of providing tools Clark residents could use to connect with their families and friends. Some of the specific social media tools focused on during the event included Skype, Twitter and Facebook.

Casey Montgomery, community relations specialist at Clark Retirement Community, said due to the historical working relationship with Aquinas through Osher Lifelong Learning Institute, it was an easy transition to have students come in to help meet the needs of residents who are asking to learn more about technological advancements.

“Our seniors are really demanding more technology and more learning in that environment. It is great that Aquinas has reached out, and with a partnership together, it was an easy thing to discuss — to say, ‘We need this,’ and they wanted to do it. It came together nicely for us and them,” said Montgomery.

“For people who are using social media a lot and even creating new social media, the residents are really getting the latest and greatest from these students, and that is what we really benefit from,” Montgomery added.

Meeting in smaller groups to provide individualized attention between students and residents, Montgomery said the seniors have enjoyed pushing the envelope to expand existing relationships with family members and re-establish connections with old friends.

“They are asking for more technology, more opportunities for electronics — and social media is, of course, one of them. It is not a thing where we have to get them involved; it is them asking us how we are going to make this more available,” said Montgomery.

“We see that there is a future for Clark and probably for other retirement communities, that we need to stay on this cutting-edge portion of things.”

Eric Bridge, coordinator of the service learning program at Aquinas, said the event was beneficial both for the college students, who have experience with social media, and the seniors at Clark who are taking an interest in learning how to use it.

“At Clark, it seems like more folks are taking an avid interest in that and utilizing the technologies out there that are available,” said Bridge. “We thought it would be a great fit because those college students coming in who grew up with a lot of technology would have a lot to offer and who are used to using it with ease could really help share their knowledge of different social media.”

Aquinas students began partnering with Clark Retirement Community several years ago for Project Unite: Love Where You Live. That initiative naturally evolved from students engaging with Clark residents to teaching them technology and social media, according to Bridge.

“In 2009 for Project Unite, we started our partnership with Clark and it worked well, and our students really enjoyed connecting with the residents there. We basically continued that ever since,” said Bridge.

“Today’s experience was building off of the social media and realizing that more seniors are using ways to try connecting with their families and often grandkids, especially if they have relatives who are not close by.”

Project Unite: Love Where You Live incorporates Aquinas College’s Dominican pillars of service and community as it connects new students, orientation leaders, faculty and staff with local organizations. The commitment to give back to the community through engagement, such as connecting and helping residents at Clark Retirement Community, allows students to live out Aquinas’ mission and emphasizes the responsibility to serve, support and work toward positive change in communities, according to Bridge.

“When we do projects through service learning, we have service and reflection,” said Bridge. “It is really important, in addition to meeting identified community needs, that we take the time to have students reflect. That is where they gain insight about themselves, about the community and things they have learned from people they are working with.”

Established in 1886 with a focus on service, Aquinas College was recognized as part of the President’s Higher Education Community Service Honor Roll in 2013.

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