Those who knew Bobinette or the Plouffe family in black and white on TV may have a few question marks in their eyes when faced with all these objects born of the digital age! Instead of leaving them in the void, the Katalizo has set up the ParrAîné.e.s program, a real link between youth and grey heads around new technologies.
Founded in 2017, Katalizo, a Quebec-based non-profit organization, "seeks to promote change at the global level, by channeling the energy and wisdom of youth and seniors," as stated on its website. To achieve this, Katalizo promotes, among other things, equity, education and innovation through projects not only in Quebec, but also internationally, such as in Latin America.
Catherine Girard is the project manager. Through her work experiences, the young manager has realized that seniors are sometimes, no pun intended, disconnected from the digital world. This fracture, unfortunately, favors their isolation a little more.
Through the ParrAîné.e.s project, young people between the ages of 15 and 25 are paired with seniors who want to learn more about how to use the Internet, their cell phone or the digital tablet that one of their grandchildren may have given them for their birthday.
A first cohort
The project is still in its infancy. The first cohort started this fall. After completing a form which can be found on the Katalizo website, to learn more about each other's motivations, 18 young people were matched with 18 seniors.
The former received a five-hour training session, while the latter received a two-hour training session, to make participants aware of the importance of "giving each other intergenerational respect", as Catherine Girard explains, and to break down the barriers between the two age groups. To ensure safety, the meetings are held in a public place, whether it is a café or a community space in a seniors' residence. Since this is a volunteer-based project, we also ensure that the meeting places are well served by public transportation for the caregivers.
The project manager does not advocate a rigid program. "We go at the person's pace," says Catherine Girard. Louis Guérin agrees. The young French computer science student at Concordia University took advantage of an exchange program between the Quebec university and his academic home in Villejuif, a suburb of Paris, the École Française de Radioélectricité, d'Électronique et d'Informatique (ÉFRÉI), to give back to his host country some of his knowledge.
"I embrace the value of caring," he says in an interview. After three weeks of contact with Gloria Irma Perez, he is particularly proud of the progress of his new protégée. For him, the computer enthusiast, it allows him to set the record straight between the theory learned in school and how computers are understood by the ordinary world. For her, it is a way to break her isolation.
Perez says that living on her own, it's not always easy to constantly ask her children how her phone, computer and tablet work. "Louis showed me the different signs on my phone like the triangle or circle and what it means. He also taught me how to find the bus and train schedule. Soon I'll be trying to find Machu Picchu!" she jokes, referring to the majestic mountain in her native Peru.
If the first three weeks were spent on her phone, she fully intends to ask her teacher "who doesn't count his time, who exceeds it" about her computer and tablet. This will allow her to converse more often with her grandchildren. At 72, would Mrs. Perez do it again if offered the opportunity to continue another session with ParrSeniors? Without hesitation, it's a yes!
For those who, from a new technology point of view, would like to start the next year on the right foot, Catherine Girard mentions that the second cohort of this two-year pilot project will start in February 2023 and that it is necessary to fill out the following form on the Katalizo website by January 1, 2023 the registration form for ParrAîné.e.s.