At 86, Evelyn Ryan took her first selfie and posted it on Facebook.
Ryan used the new iPad lab at The Lodge at Wake Forest, an independent senior-living facility, earlier this month.
The lab, created by local Girl Scout Hannah Brown, aims to help residents stay in touch with long-distance family members. The goal is also to help keep aging minds sharp with apps and games.
“I saw this project about teaching grandparents to use Facebook, and I thought I could make it a lot bigger,” said Brown, 16.
The project is part of Brown’s effort to earn the Gold Award, the highest honor for Girl Scouts. It’s also her senior project at Franklin Academy, a charter school in Wake Forest.
Thales Academy, a network of private schools, donated iPads when the school upgraded to new ones. Brown wiped the hard drives and built a mobile cart to hold them.
Throughout the next year, Brown plans to offer workshops to The Lodge residents to teach them basic skills and then more advanced tricks, including video-chatting, taking photos and posting on social media.
Topics will depend on what the residents want to learn, Brown said.
Although some residents have their own iPads, they don’t always know how to operate them, said Juliana Wieczkowski, enrichment coordinator for The Lodge at Wake Forest.
“It’s just unbelievable for the residents,” Wieczkowski said. “It’s not as difficult as they imagined.”
Some people at the facility already know a little bit about using newer technology. Ryan’s family uses Facebook, so she learned how to use it too, she said.
“They’re very faithful about putting things on there,” she said.
On Sunday, Brown helped residents navigate email and social media. She also worked with the in-house therapist at The Lodge to pick out games that could keep residents’ fingers and minds nimble.
They especially liked solitaire, she said.
To help the residents stay in touch with family members and friends, Brown will teach them how to Skype and how to send and answer emails.
She knows what it’s like to have family far away. For a long time, her grandparents lived in Georgia. She used to talk to them on the phone, but it wasn’t the same as visiting.
“I like to see them face to face,” Brown said.
Mary Violante, 86, uses iPads and computers to look at photos on Facebook. She’s still learning how to take and save her own photos and isn’t sure yet how to share them.
“I’m so limited to email and Facebook,” she said. “This is what keeps me in touch with my family.”