By Liz Otero
Teens and young adults seem to be naturally adept at navigating technology such as personal computers, smart devices, and software applications, while many older adults find much of it less than intuitive, if not baffling. But there’s help.
With personalized coaching from Albuquerque-based Teeniors, tech-savvy teens are working with tech-challenged Baby Boomers who need assistance with their online undertakings.
When mentioning Cash App, Venmo, Google Pay, Google Meet, Zoom, YouTube, TikTok, streaming, or virtual doctor appointments, many seniors look at you like you’re speaking another language. Through one-on-one personalized coaching, Teeniors helps people who feel as though their disenfranchisement from technology is preventing them from staying connected.
Trish Lopez, founder and CEO of the multi-award-winning Teeniors, was inspired to create a company that could help her mother and other digitally challenged older adults.
“The idea for the company was inspired by my mom, Lillian, who is 81,” Lopez said. She loves technology—from reading the news on her iPhone to checking out Facebook photos of our family. She also hates technology. Several times a month, when we kids get the call (saying), ‘Gmail “lost” her password or Microsoft lost her document…’ we can’t always be there to help.”
“Turns out, we’re not alone in this problem,” Lopez said. “There are millions of Lillians in the U.S. and many, many across New Mexico who are struggling to adapt to the digital world.”
Lopez launched the company soon after participating in a local startup pitch competition geared toward women with business ideas.
“I had no idea what I was doing,” Lopez said. “I had never created or run any organization before, but I had worked in leadership roles in the film industry.”
By addressing problems commonly overlooked for seniors, Lopez helped pave the way to help older adults with technology solutions. Teeniors celebrated its fifth anniversary in the fall, tutoring more than 4,000 adults along the way.
Teeniors was created with a two-fold purpose: to empower older adults while providing paid, meaningful jobs for teens and young adults, ages 14-29. The organization also has a non-profit arm to support the countless hours of free coaching that it provides to seniors who can’t afford to pay.
“Through grants and tax-deductible donations, we have been able to continue this work while still paying our young team,” Lopez said.
Teeniors teaches everything from how to order groceries online and shop on Amazon; how to use apps such as Excel and Word, or change settings on an iPhone; how to participate in a Zoom video meeting, use social media platforms and stream movies; and even how to protect themselves online.
Amid it all, Lopez said, “the most common request is still how to use or better understand a client’s smartphone, tablet or computer.”
“Also, it’s important to note that not all of our clients are older adults,” Lopez said. “The average age of our clients is about 73 – but we have coached people as young as those in their 40s.”
Before the COVID-19 pandemic disrupted social gathering, Teeniors worked through in-person coaching and community workshops. Today, Teeniors has shifted primarily to virtual assistance services. The pivot has also helped the company expand to provide resources to seniors across the country – 23 states so far, including New Mexico.
Here’s how the program works: Clients call Teeniors – “they always get a live person,” Lopez said – and are given a choice of virtual coaching, in-person coaching, or the option to participate in monthly classes with a tutor or one of our team members. Every client has the opportunity to discuss during the initial call what they’d like to learn in their session. The call is followed by a personalized email confirmation, the name of their coach, and details of what the client hopes to accomplish. Teeniors also provides free coaching opportunities every month for people who can’t afford to pay, and if you identify as low-income, Teeniors’ non-profit may be able to help at little or no cost.
“The main service we provide is not tech support; it is human connection,” Lopez said. “And the level to which we recognize that, and stay true to that, is the level to which we will continue to succeed.”
For costs and more detailed information, contact Teeniors at (505) 600-1297 or at [email protected].