ST.PETERSBURG, Fla. — Ed Sved can remember his time in fighter jets during World War II almost like it was yesterday. At 99 years old, Ed has a harder time remembering how to work his electronics, something he's lived without for most of his life.
“These are all things new for me — the phone, the tablet, and computers in general," Sved said. "It’s a very slow learning process and I need all the help I can get.”
Luckily, he has a young friend to help him out: Reyes Flores, a student at Eckerd College.
For the past six years, the school has partnered with the AARP Foundation for the Mentor Up program, which helps older adults learn the digital world. Through Professor Tamar Shovali's course 'Aspects of Aging,' students volunteer for Saturday workshops and are paired with seniors at Westminster Shores.
Reyes said he intiallly signed up for the course in order to fulfill a graduation requirement, but it's become a fulfilling experience.
“I did not expect to be in this class, actually enjoy this program and like actually coming here and helping other people," he said. "It’s fun, I like it, it’s helpful.”
In class, Reyes and his peers explore the idea of getting older and discuss the stereotypes and stigma often associate with the senior population. While the goal of the Mentor Up program is to help older people learn the ins and outs of technology, it's also about building positive relationships that cross generations.
“I like talking to Ed," Reyes said. "He’s 99 years old. I’m so blown away by that.”
Ed said the program is important for people his age and he appreciates the help from students. Even late in life, Ed said you can never stop learning.
“I want to learn, I want to be able to understand these things and it’s really like learning a foreign language," he said.
About 15 students in total participated in six Saturday morning workshops throughout March to May. Eckerd and the AARP Foundation plan to offer the program again in spring of 2025.