Techie helps OC seniors go digital
They jokingly know him simply as “doctor” and he’s respected for the old-fashioned way he stops in to see the elderly and do what he can to make their lives a little better.
But he is not a physician and he doesn’t provide health care advice.
What Jose Juarez does is serve as a good listener who applies his knowledge to help seniors solve their problems -- problems, that is, with how to use digital devices like smartphones and tablets.
Juarez is a smiling, energetic and busy father of three who has become the digital resource for many local seniors. As a community ambassador for Monarch HealthCare, he regularly visits with seniors and as part of that service he has been helping them learn the new ways of communication, including how to use email and social media.
Juarez doesn’t subscribe to the notion that new technology is for young people only. “Two months ago, I helped this lady connect with her daughter. She had never met her grandson,” Juarez recalled during a recent trip to the San Juan Capistrano Senior Center. “The grandson was three and I helped them do Facetime. And I mean there were just tears at how thankful she was. It was unbelievable.”
Juarez performs his monthly “house calls,” which usually involve small classes or “clinics,” all around Orange County at community venues and senior centers. The work is part of a comprehensive outreach strategy deployed by Monarch, one of the largest physician groups in Orange County and Long Beach.
Monarch believes that helping seniors adapt to and use technology helps them avoid isolation and stay better connected to social support structures. Those structures can allow opportunities for family and friends to be aware of their elderly loved one’s living conditions or other issues. Being able to use technology is also the beginning of how healthcare will be delivered. Having the knowledge to use technology helps the patients manage their own health. The overall result is that seniors are able to maintain happier, healthier lives.
In keeping with this belief in connectivity, Monarch has generously allowed Juarez to make the most of his position by encouraging his use of digital, social and teaching skills. He has shown a professional passion that has been appreciated by all concerned.
During a recent visit, Juarez puts a smartphone on the table in front of him, along with an iPad and a laptop computer. And then he starts getting questions ― a lady in her 70s wants to know what’s the difference between Wi-Fi and data, a gentleman wants to learn how to upload photos on a Facebook page so he can share some memories with his grandkids.
“It just makes me happy to help seniors citizens learn all about modern technology. It starts with how to turn a phone on, how to create an account, email, Facebook, contacts – it’s pure joy to see how I can help them contact their family through smartphone technology,” says Juarez. “I am surprised at how many are interested in using new technology.”
There is a teaching style that Juarez has developed while working with his “students.” For example, he has to overcome fears some have about breaking a phone or accidentally deleting data from a tablet. But once those basic skills are worked out, including swiping and tapping techniques, there are usually lots of details that can be provided on topics such as network security, data settings and photo sharing.
He has learned, unfortunately, that some seniors haven’t learned about the digital age because their relatives don’t work enough with them. “It’s kind of sad, but the biggest setback they have is their families don’t have the patience for it,” he said. “Their kids don’t have patience or they get upset because they keep asking the same question.”
He is grateful about all the compliments and kudos he receives. It can be, at times, a little overwhelming to know that he is helping people stay connected and closer to their families and friends. He knows that these types of connections can be important positives in the health and well-being of seniors.
“It changes their lives,” he explained about helping seniors learn about simple techniques such as sending a text to a family member. “The other day I met with this lady in Rancho Santa Margarita. She was, like, 92-years-old. And she walked out of there so happy knowing that she can answer a (wireless) phone call!”
Juarez is well aware there is a great need to help seniors come fully in the cyber world. He has noticed how the same people sometimes show up for his visits at different sites.
“I have people following me on my tours through San Clemente, Dana Point, Rancho Santa Margarita and Lake Forest and San Juan Capistrano. I feel like a rock star!” jokes Juarez.
“Of course, there is a serious lesson to be learned here as well,” he adds. “My teaching them about modern technology changes lives for the better. They feel more involved, more valuable again. And connected with others. As people age, it can be hard to get out. But it’s important to our mental health to stay in touch with family and friends. It keeps our minds sharp. It’s a win-win situation.”
Seniors can look forward to attending the next digital technology classes at Lake Forest Senior Center on Tuesday, November 17th from 12:00pm - 1:30pm. The Lake Forest Senior Center is located at 25550 Commerce Centre Drive, Lake Forest, CA 92630.
Seniors can also attend digital technology classes at Bell Tower Senior Center on Tuesday, October 27th from 2:00pm – 4:00pm, Tuesday, November 10th from 11:30 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. and Tuesday, November 24th from 2:00pm – 4:00pm. The Bell Tower Senior Center is located at 22232 El Paseo, Rancho Santa Margarita, CA 92688