Coronavirus News: Teens' tech tutoring keeps seniors connected during social distancing

NEW YORK CITY (WABC) -- A community center in Manhattan is helping seniors stay connected during social distancing by matching them with tech savvy teenagers.

Before the coronavirus pandemic, the 92nd Street Y offered seniors on the Upper East Side a number of opportunities to interact with younger generations, including through mentorship with children and young professionals.

But it is the center's tech tutoring program, which turns students into teachers, that has been a lifeline for seniors during the crisis.

"I never thought I'd be so dependent on technology," 92Y member Abbie Cohen said. "I thought, I don't need that, I don't need that, but now it's keeping me alive."

The senior-teen pairings first began in 2013, currently there are about 40 duos and more seniors would like to take part according to Erica Shein, who is head of 92Y's Intergenerational Program.

"I have waiting lists," Shein said. "Many have spouses and friends who have died. They're older and they have no friends at all. So the companionship and working on a common goal is frankly life-saving at this point."

Cohen was paired with teenager Lauren before the pandemic, but now the pair meet up over video chat.

The 78-year-old lost her partner to COVID-19 and says her sessions with Lauren provide her a sense of accomplishment and cheer her up.

"I don't have children so this is my only connection with younger children," Cohen said. "It's really interesting, satisfying and gratifying too to see how bright they are so willing to help. It looks like a good generation to me."

And the relationship is mutually beneficial.

"It's just been so fun getting to know her and super rewarding helping her out and just seeing how eager she is to learn," Lauren said.

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