Students like Irbis Martinez often step into the role of tech support as their family members and elders adapt to new cellphones and internet apps or adopt life-critical, cloud-based technology, such as medical video conferencing that became the norm during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Even now, my grandparents use Zoom for their doctors’ appointments 50% of the time,” said Martinez, an environmental engineering senior and president of the UA’s Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers, or SHPE.
But Martinez can’t always answer the calls. That’s where La Familia, now in its 22nd year, comes in. SHPE organizes La Familia, a free annual event, to teach community members, especially seniors, how to use technology confidently and independently.
“Our grandparents and parents raised us; it’s high time for us to teach them a few things,” said Martinez.
Two workshops, provided in English and Spanish, in November 2023 were geared to what family and community members in Tucson, wanted most: navigating apps and finding jobs.
“This exceptional city, the inviting people, the delicious tacos, the beautiful sunsets over the mountain range raised me into the person I am today,” said Maximo Ybarro, mechanical engineering senior and vice president of La Familia. “I felt this could be my way of giving back to my community, my family.”
Ybarro arranged a partnership with Bank of America to add a cybersecurity component to the Navigating Apps presentation as well as a separate Professional Development workshop.
“If anybody is going to have the best quality presentation, especially when it comes to financial scams, it is going to be them [Bank of America],” said Ybarro.
The cybersecurity training was essential because of the rise in online scams targeting seniors, he stressed.
According to the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s 2022 Elder Fraud Report, total losses reported to the Internet Crime Complaint Center by elderly victims increased 84% from 2021. Technology and customer service schemes are the most common scams targeting seniors.
“But honestly, it can happen to anyone,” said Ybarro.