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Teens help adults learn how to use technology — and make friends along the way

Residents at Brookdale Senior Living have a wealth of knowledge, but there are some gaps in that knowledge. Most notably: How do you work a cell phone?

Everything from turning on devices to receiving email to finding relevant applications created problems for residents, until a group of computer-savvy Gen-Zers stepped up with a plan to save the day.

A few years ago, some students at Canterbury School in Fort Myers, Florida, were joking about how bad their grandparents were with technology, and when the laughter died down, Aaron Smollier hit on an idea.


CLEO volunteers come once a week to entertain the residents.

Steve Hartman / On the Road

Smollier, along with friends Christian Laquis and Derrick Hueneken, created CLEO, which stands for “Computer Literacy Education Outreach”. They tried to partner with Brookdale, but an email went unanswered, so the intrepid teenagers went to the center — which is right next to their school.

“It was before we could drive, so we walked after school,” Smlier said.

They have been volunteering ever since, showing seniors how to connect using technology. Brookdale resident Jonathan Smith said he couldn’t figure out how to text a picture until one of the CLEO kids explained it to him.

Volunteers also helped Nancy Kirkpatrick clean out her inbox, which was full of emails — more than 122,000 unread messages.


A volunteer helps Nancy Kirkpatrick clean out her inbox

Steve Hartman/On the Road

Residents called the kids everything from “amazing” to “a blessing,” praising the “great team” for what they did.

The group comes once a week, and in addition to solving technical problems, they are building relationships with residents, which means that communication continues even when the devices go dark, proving that, as a communication tool, smart phones always work best turned off.

To contact On The Road or send us a story idea, email us: OnTheRoad@cbsnews.com.

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Steve Hartman

Steve Hartman

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