The new Wise Webbie program at Minoru Residence is a hit with both residents and volunteers. Wise Webbie arrived at Minoru in April, thanks to long-time volunteer Minnie Teng, an OT Masters student at UBC.

From newbie to webbie: Minoru seniors take to technology

What happens when you give a computer tablet to a senior? Much more than anyone ever expected.

That’s what happened recently at Minoru Residence with the launch of the new Wise Webbie program. The four-week course introduces seniors to technology, specifically computer tablets and how to use them.

“By the second session, residents’ skill levels were beyond anything we ever expected,” said Genevieve Andrews, recreation therapist, Minoru Residence. “We had to reconsider our original curriculum because we completely underestimated our folks’ interests and ability levels and they were getting bored.”

The students, as it turns out, are doing a number of different things on their tablets, from catching up on current affairs  to playing bingo and learning Word and how to email. Others are increasing their medical literacy, and use the tablets to locate and read the latest medical literature on their specific medical concerns.

New youth volunteers have come on-board to share their knowledge of technology with residents.

“I’m even showing people how to use Google Scholar,” said Cindy Ho, digital services librarian, Richmond Public Library. “Having a tablet lending program also allows the residents to take ownership of their own learning.”

From a good idea

Wise Webbie is the brainchild of UBC OT student Minnie Teng, who has volunteered at Minoru for the past seven years. She stumbled upon the idea for Wise Webbie after two residents showed an interest in the camera function of her mobile device.

“She was really interested in all the things I could do with my phone. Another lady called it a ‘magical device,’” said Teng. “That’s when I realized that they’d had very little exposure to any of this technology, and the idea of connecting seniors with technology just came to me.”

Teng’s program idea received a warm reception from Minoru’s recreation staff and management, and she began to pursue it formally, filing grant applications and searching for community-based partners.

Thanks to a grant from the Richmond Community Foundation and in partnership with VCH, Richmond Hospital Health Care Auxiliary, the Richmond Public Library and the Richmond City Centre Community Centre, Teng received $3,300 to purchase a set of five Android tablets and cases.

In addition to use during the training sessions, the five tablets are also available for residents to borrow for personal use any time they like.

Building community & highlighting strategic priorities

In addition to introducing seniors to new technology, Wise Webbie highlights community partnerships and inter-generational learning. In fact, advent of Wise Webbie has attracted new and young volunteers into Minoru to share their technical know-how with the seniors.

“It is amazing to see that everyone involved with Wise Webbie is so in tune with the strategic priorities of VCH,” said Nicky Dhugga, manager, Minoru Residence. “The program is a great example of collaboration, innovation, people first, best care and building a community.”

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