Silver Geek

One hundred twenty-four young volunteers teach 900 senior citizens how to use tablets and other digital tools so they can Skype with their family or play games on the Internet.


Launched in 2014, the Silver Geek project is the result of a multi-stakeholder approach in Poitou-Charentes, France to address two key issues: aging and digital inclusion.

The project started when “Le Rameau,” a research lab on innovative partnerships, approached several local stakeholders (including Orange and ADB) to address social issues within their community. A diverse mix of associations, companies, local authorities and nonprofits then partnered to form the Silver Geek collective, co-driven by Solidatech and Orange to evaluate the benefits of digital tools for the welfare of the elderly – both in their physical autonomy and their mental well-being.

Each partner contributes in their unique way. Unis-Cité, a youth volunteering organisation, mobilized 116 volunteers to accompany more than 400 senior citizens across 20 participating senior homes for a period of from 8 to 16 months for a minimum of 2 hours of interaction per week. During this time, the young volunteers spent time alongside seniors teaching them how to use digital tools such as tablets so they can Skype with their family, or taught them to play games (such as Wii bowling). These sessions were fun, interactive and promoted intergenerational exchange.  Take a look at these photos to see the enthusiasm created by the annual Silver Geek regional contest of Wii bowling for the elderly!

To facilitate this session, a toolkit was made available for free by the Silver Geek project through its partners. This kit contained two gaming consoles (Xbox 360 with Kinect, Wii), games, one tablet and one projector. The MACIF foundation provided financial funding, Huawei donated the tablets, and Microsoft donated Xbox games.

TechSoup French partner Solidatech (which is also specialized in hardware refurbishment), sourced the equipment, assembled the hardware kits, and supported the event with external communications, budget management and extra funds for research. Orange contributed by proving resources to help coordinate and promote the program.

Afterward, a social impact assessment study demonstrated an increase in confidence among the senior participants in their ability to learn something new. The survey also found that they had more energy and improved motor skills, with added excitement and interest in continuing to use digital tools.

These interactions between seniors and young volunteers also encouraged a better understanding of each other – a pleasant result which was not anticipated!


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