When Community Consolidated School District 93 in Bloomingdale, IL, upgraded its computer hardware, it wanted to know if it could donate 25 laptop computers to Windsor Park, a continuing care retirement community in nearby Carol Stream.

From there, a partnership developed between elementary and middle school students and residents, with the latter learning how to use applications such as FaceTime and Facebook. They also learned how to download and share photos during the students’ twice-monthly visits.

The partnership is a “win-win,” says Bill Shields, superintendent of Schools for CCSD 93. Karen Larson, the executive director at Windsor Park, says she has seen the students develop confidence by working with seniors, and also has seen her residents thrive. 

“I heard one of the residents point to a student and say, ‘That’s my girl!’ It was really cute,” Larson says. “They do enjoy the children.” 

The partnership is not without precedent: The community has taken part in an online exchange with students in Brazil via Skype, to help the South Americans improve their English. Larson’s advice to other communities embarking on technology projects is to make sure everything is working. Otherwise, seniors might be quick to think a problem is user-error.

“They feel they got left behind with this computer stuff, and they want to stay connected, especially to their grandkids,” she notes.