The running joke is once you reach a certain age and want to use technology, find a teenager.
One Belen High School graduate took that humorous advice and turned it into a business.
Teeniors is a program which connects tech-savvy young people with seniors looking for tech support to deal with everything from learning new software to troubleshooting a problem. Based in Albuquerque, Teeniors was founded by BHS graduate Trish Lopez.
“Teeniors are tech-savvy teens and young adults, who help older adults learn technology and electronics through one-on-one, personalized coaching,” Lopez said.
“That could be smartphones, tablets, computers or software. I would say if you want to learn more about how to use your phone, or your computer or an app, we are perfect for that. We are as a whole, a five-star rated team. We’ve worked with well over 3,000 seniors in Albuquerque alone.”
Teeniors was established with a goal of empowering people through technology to help them better connect with their surroundings.
“Our goal is to empower older adults to connect with their loved ones, connect with their communities and the world through technology,” Lopez said. “As well as providing paid, meaningful jobs to teens and young adults in New Mexico.”
The idea for the company began when Lopez watched her mom struggle with new technologies.
“My own mom was struggling to adapt to the digital world,” Lopez said. “I think many of us, no matter our age, see how quickly things are moving in the digital world. More has changed in the last 20 years with technology than in the previous 60.
“As my own mom was struggling to adapt, I realized she loved a lot of things about technology — playing Words With Friends on her Kindle, she likes checking out Facebook photos of our family — but she hated, and kind of still does, a lot about it.
“Which is, she loses documents, she forgets passwords and we can’t always be there to help… I always kind of wished we could just send a kid over to Mom’s house and show her how to recover a password.”
Traditionally, one-on-one instruction has been done in person, with sessions taking place in the Teeniors’ office, the customers’ home or a neutral location such as a library. Under normal circumstances, group classes would also be hosted in community centers in order to tackle some of the more common technology questions.
Now, with restrictions related to the COVID-19 pandemic in place, the majority of classes are taking place online over Zoom or via phone calls, though in-person instruction is available if necessary.
Group classes are also continuing digitally, though Lopez said they’ve seen a decline in participation in group sessions as a result of the move online, which has caused a loss of some of the ways the group has typically spread the word about these classes — flyers and word-of-mouth at a community and senior centers. Now, all the promotion is done through their e-newsletter.
Recently, Teeniors received a grant to help them put on more classes geared towards men, as Lopez said the vast majority of Teeniors clients are women and they would like to be able to bring more men into the fold.
“We really like seeing men come into the community and say ‘I want to learn, too,’” Lopez said. “It was cool because just by (teaching a class called) Facebook 101 for men, we got eight men to sign up, which is completely unusual with our work.”
The group classes were halted for much of the pandemic, but they have been working to bring them back into the fold more recently, with class sizes typically between five to 15 people, according to Lopez.
Virtual coaching has allowed for the expansion of Teeniors beyond New Mexico, and virtual sessions are available to interested parties across the country.
Currently, one-on-one sessions are being offered at a discounted rate of $39.99 per hour, which is $10 an hour less than normal.
To set up a one-on-one session, Teeniors can be reached either by email at firstname.lastname@example.org, or via the phone at 505-600-1297. The when and where, as well as what type of help a client requires will be discussed from there.
Lopez said she currently has 14 Teeniors on staff, which is a fairly typical size for her service.
In light of the pandemic, new classes, such as how to access the library online, have been added in order to help adapt to the changing demands that come with not being able to do as much in person. Lopez said it has quickly become one of their most popular classes.
While tech service is what brought Teeniors to life, Lopez feels it isn’t the most important part of their business.
“One thing I’ve noticed about Teeniors, the main service we provide is not tech support, it’s human connection,” she said. “The level to which we stay true to that is what will determine to what level we succeed.”
For more information, visit Teeniors.com or call 600-1297.