This semester, several Film Studies students and myself hosted a film series titled “Our Digital Humanity: The Film Series.” The series was related to the university theme exploring digital tools and their impact on our society. With many of our films exploring the uncertainty associated with the increase of digital tools and their place in our daily lives, the other students and myself wanted to include a film that focuses solely on the optimistic portrayals of these very tools. It is for this reason that we chose to show Saffron Cassaday’s “Cyber Seniors.” This documentary differs from the other films in how it focuses entirely on digital tools’ ability to help us connect and communicate with one another.
The filming for “Cyber Seniors” began in 2009, when Saffron’s sisters, Maucaulee and Kascha, were inspired to start the Cyber Seniors program after seeing the impact learning to use the internet had on their own grandparents. The two high school students started the after-school program and invited other teenage volunteers to a local retirement residence in Toronto where they tutored the residents on how to use internet tools such as Facebook, YouTube, and Skype. The seniors also have a competition for who can gain the most likes on their YouTube video. This inspires the seniors and their mentors to try new and creative means for attracting views and likes such as a rap music video, a cooking tutorial, and a video about friendship.
With an overwhelmingly optimistic and heartfelt approach, “Cyber Seniors” focuses on the internet’s potential to not only bring people closer together, but also help them explore new things on and off the computer. In the film, the audience has an intimate view of the seniors as they learn how to Skype their grandchildren, watch cooking tutorials and listen to music. The film does not offer other perspectives concerning technology, it only demonstrates the internet’s ability to reconnect us to family and friends that we are not able to see otherwise. Cassaday also portrays the Cyber Seniors program as a way to bridge the ever-widening technology gap through teenage mentors working with senior citizens. “Cyber Seniors“ demonstrates the internet’s power to connect us and expose us to new perspectives and possibilities that we may have never experienced otherwise.
The small after-school Cyber Seniors program started by Maucalee and Kascha did not end after the documentary was finished; it is now an international campaign. After our screening of “Cyber Seniors,” Cyber Seniors’ Communications Director, Tess Finlay, answered questions concerning the program. Their website provides resources and training opportunities for individuals and communities interested in starting their own Cyber Seniors program to teach senior citizens how to use different technology tools and to bridge the technology gap between generations.
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