Motivated Senior Crosses the Digital Divide

Like other seniors, Jean learned to use a computer late in life because it was the means to an end.
Photo of Jean

Oblivious to the beautiful Colorado summer day just outside her window, Jean Stonner is staring at her computer screen. A few months ago she might have been ready to throw something at it in frustration. But today, she’s in control of her desktop computer. Like other seniors, Jean learned to use the tech tool late in life because it was the means to an end. For her, it’s volunteering at the Grillo Health Information Center.

After researching esophageal innervation using a popular online browser and subscription medical information services, also online, Jean will document her work using a word processing program and maybe event a spreadsheet. But getting to this place has not been easy.

“I spent some time being mad at the computer,” Jean said. “I just wanted it to work — to do what I needed it to do.” Thanks to the patience of volunteers at Grillo who taught her and persistence on her part, Jean is now a competent computer user. And she continues to learn by taking tech classes at the Boulder Senior Center.

Volunteers needed at Grillo

Jean learned about the Grillo Health Information Center at her senior residence and thought she might use it for herself. After checking it out, she was motivated to volunteer. As a retired registered nurse, she had time and knowledge.

“I have much to be grateful for and am always looking for forums in which I can give back,” Jean said.

A private nonprofit based in Boulder, the Grillo Health Information Center provides scientifically-based medical information in response to health-related questions. Requests can be submitted online, by email, phone or in person at the Tebo Family Medical Pavilion.

According to Gerra Lewis, the program coordinator at Grillo, people who are making medical decisions may be overwhelmed when looking up information online. And occasionally, they may want more information than is given to them by their doctor.

“We don’t diagnose or recommend practitioners, but we can answer medical questions that take time and energy away from someone in the midst of a medical situation,” Gerra said. “We use reliable, evidence-based websites and multiple reviewers to make sure we provide comprehensive answers.”

While not all the volunteers at Grillo have health backgrounds like Jean, many do. And all volunteers must become Boulder Community Hospital (BCH) volunteers, since the Grillo Center is located on the BCH campus. This requirement means a bit more rigorous application and training process. But for the right volunteer, it’s a challenging and fulfilling job.

Although only required to volunteer for a two-hour shift once a week, Jean often spends Friday at Grillo. She enjoys the public exchange and that she is challenged to continue learning — about health and about computers.

How to volunteer

To inquire about volunteering at the Grillo Health Information Center, call 720-854-7293, email or visit their website.

Take tech classes

For information about tech and social media classes in Boulder and Weld counties, visit Silver Surfers’ Events page.

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