RIT expands partnership with Jewish Senior Life
Rochester Institute of Technology’s Saunders College of Business recently extended its partnership with Jewish Senior Life, a retirement community based in Brighton.
Over the next five years, the JSL Innovation Collaborative will support the development of research materials to explore how new technologies may impact and improve the lives of seniors, including supporting research stipends and resources for students.
TekHub, a technical support offering at The Summit at Brighton, kicked off the partnership last March. Residents make appointments with Noah Wallace, a fourth-year computing security student from Rochester, who helps with technology inquiries ranging from best practices in password protection to Roku troubleshooting and accessing family Zoom calls. These interactions are recorded and analyzed to identify common questions, challenges and successes.
“There’s a cycle going on where we observe, learn and help,” said professor Victor Perotti, who leads the RIT students in this research. “Then, we take what we’ve learned and feed it back into the system to try to improve the overall technology literacy and technology confidence in that community.”
Initial research suggests that technology challenges are not primarily due to physical limitations such as vision or hearing loss, as previously believed. Rather, challenges stem from lack of awareness or education.
“When presented with smart devices, which have been around for over a decade now, residents still don’t have the fundamentals to interact with the technology,” Wallace said. “The generation that grew up with smart devices gradually became accustomed to needing precise tapping, advanced swiping and having to navigate cluttered menus, but these skills were never taught to the seniors who have just begun to use these new devices. There’s a vast contrast between their knowledge and that of someone who has been using devices like iPads or smartphones their whole life.”
Research indicates that seniors do not return for additional help once they’re taught how to use the device.
“The work we’re doing with Saunders College is critical to the well-being of our residents, especially during the pandemic when technology is crucial in maintaining connections with loved ones,” said Michael King, JSL president and CEO. “We’re thrilled to continue to build upon this successful collaboration to improve the lives of aging people within our community.”
Over time, the Collaborative will expand to include applied analytics work, machine-learning capabilities and robotics with help from RIT’s Kate Gleason College of Engineering. The ultimate goal is to improve the mental and physical health of seniors through technology.
“Our goal is to help the whole community have a better relationship with technology and enjoy all the rewards that come with that, things like better social connections, better health and access to things they wouldn’t otherwise have access to,” Perotti said. “Jewish Senior Life is an exceptionally innovative organization and, therefore, a superb partner for this.”