Advancing global communication has been a mantra of the social media age, but with technology blitzing forward so rapidly, many older citizens are more alienated than ever.
Cyber-Seniors, a touching documentary from Saffron Cassaday, follows a passion project created by her younger sisters, Macaulee and Kascha Cassaday, in which volunteer high schoolers coach senior citizens on how to access the Internet. It’s telling that one of the first lessons is how to turn a computer on and off. Navigating Facebook, the end goal for many of the cyber-seniors, feels lofty.
Despite their own frequent misgivings, the seniors’ eagerness to learn — and their slow but steady progress toward online independence — is heartening to watch. Eventually, the seniors even compete in a YouTube video challenge, an event that demonstrates just how irrelevant the age gap can be. Shura, a lovely 88-year-old from the program, voices the frustration that multitudes have felt when receiving their first downvote: “How can someone dislike something so innocuous?”
Though touched with some real-life tragedy, the film is at its best in scenes of seniors interacting with their families online; their rapturous expressions illustrate the supreme comfort that communication can bring to people, even when the message is a simple hello.
If there’s a film that will make you want to finally accept that friend request from your grandparents, this one is it.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on May 14, 2014