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WNIJ's summary of news items around our state.

Rochelle Fifth Graders Help Seniors Embrace Smartphones

A group of fifth graders in Rochelle is helping their local seniors become more tech savvy on their smartphones. 

The training took place at the Hub City Senior Center in Rochelle and was put together by the local elementary school and the Rochelle Public Library. During a recent gathering, the room was full of seniors and fifth graders sitting at round tables passing off cell phones. Director of the Library Sarah Flanagan led the training and says it covers many new ways for seniors to connect with loved ones.

"We went over how to put an app on your phone," Flanagan explained. "We went over how to make a phone call, how to text, how to do FaceTime, and we talked a little bit about the Facebook app and then we also worked on how to hook your phone up to Wi-Fi."

The students here are at an advantage because they have grown up surrounded by this technology. Flanagan thinks the exposure makes the kids the perfect teachers. 

"The fifth graders are experts and the seniors need some tutorial, so it works out well because we have all those generations working together," Flanagan said.

Noelle Brown teaches fifth grade at Tilton Elementary School in Rochelle. She says after seeing the kids interact with technology in the classroom, she also agrees her students make ideal teachers.

"I like to think that I know a little bit about technology," Brown said. "But they definitely help me during day and this is right up their alley." 

Brown says there are many ways smartphones can help seniors.

"It's ways for them to connect with family members who are not living in state or living close by," Brown said. "It's also basic things like paying bills, [especially] if some of that is difficult for them to get out to do," Brown said.

Senior Mary Clark says she has struggled with staying in touch with family members who live out of state. She found the training helpful.

"I am excited about the FaceTime because I have relatives on the West Coast who I don’t see very often and it would be fun to talk to them," Clark said.

Although the students are the ones teaching the senior citizens, Noelle Brown believes the seniors teach the kids lessons that can’t be learned in a textbook or classroom.

"Not only are we working on technology today, but we will have a piece where they get to sit down and they actually get to talk with one another," Brown said. "And it's just so interesting to watch how the kids respond to the stories they tell and the experiences that they have had. I think that the kids really learn that the generation has a lot to offer."

Brown says it's also a good chance for the students to get out into the community.

"They are also offering a service to somebody else and doing something for someone else, and I feel like really we can never have enough of that," Brown said.

And the fun is not over yet. The fifth graders are returning to the senior center later this month.