Technology is increasingly a major factor in everyone’s life. Advances in smart phone, computer and TV technology demand higher and higher levels of tech knowledge. For older folks, adapting to these newer devices isn’t always that easy. But a group of younger folks is stepping in to help.
Trish Lopez is the founder and CEO of Teeniors, a program that pairs teens with senior citizens who need assistance with technology. “My mom’s 76," she said. "There are five of us kids, and she raised us mostly by herself because my dad died when we were really young."
Lopez said she was inspired to create Teeniors because of her own experience. “We’re constantly helping her with her tech issues and her questions about Gmail and Facebook and everything else. So we’ve often thought, 'Gosh if only there was a kid we could have help her or tutor her in a quick way to help her understand this better.' ”
Lopez pointed to the Boy Scouts as another organization that’s rallied together to do this kind of thing — volunteer, connect and put quality quiet time in with elders. “Teeniors is tech-savvy teens helping to empower seniors through one-on-one personalized coaching with their cell phone, their tablet, their computer, even a smart TV," she said.
Teeniors is one of 10 local startup businesses to receive training and $20,000 in funding from ABQ ID, a local business accelerator program. Webb Johnson is the managing director of ABQ ID. “It’s New Mexico’s first curriculum-based, investor-funded accelerator program focused on investor ROI and creating excellent companies,” he said.
ROI, or return on investment, is a top consideration, Johnson said. They review business models presented by local entrepreneurs, he said, and select the best ideas for successful startup companies. “ABQ ID has a seed fund in which we put a modest $20,000 seed investment into the companies that are selected to go through our process.”
Johnson said they’re looking to provide assistance and opportunity for the people to create successful, scalable companies and jobs. There are outstanding local entrepreneurs, he said, which is why he helped create ABQ ID. “It’s a extraordinary opportunity for us to showcase the amazing talent that we have in New Mexico," he said. "We want to support them and show that we can cultivate homegrown entrepreneurs locally by supporting them through programs like these through local investors."
The entrepreneurs go through weeks of training with ABQ ID, and Johnson said he has high hopes for the business accelerator model. “I think soon we’ll be recognized nationally for producing really high-quality companies.”
On a Saturday morning early this fall at the North Domingo Baca Multigenerational Center in Albuquerque’s Northeast Heights, teens in bright Teeniors T-shirts cruised around the lobby working with seniors who’d signed up for help, like Jan Strand. "I just graduated to smartphone, and so I’m getting some help, some much needed help."
Other youth volunteers helped with tasks like setting up family sharing on an iPhone or using the airdrop function.
More than basic tech support, Teeniors CEO Lopez said, they’re providing human connection. “The seniors absolutely love dealing with these younger people, and they’ve gone out of their way to tell us, 'You know, these kids are awesome. They’re not condescending. They don’t make me feel stupid. I don’t have to call some free tech support line and get someone who I can’t understand who’s going too fast for me.' And they’re just great at coaching them.”
An entrepreneurial business venture like Teeniors shows that using technology to connect young people to the elders in their community could have great business potential.