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Senior citizens learn mobile tech skills in Spanish with new city of Reno initiative

An elderly person sits with a cell phone in hand while an instructor leans over, pointing at the phone screen.
Mario Jimenez
Noticiero Móvil
Nearly half a dozen Latino seniors took part in a workshop sponsored by the city of Reno at the Neil Recreation Center to learn how to better use their cell phones to connect with their family and community and prevent themselves from being scammed.

Lea en español.

By Andrew Zuker

Half a dozen elderly Latinos sat using their cellphones in a small conference room at the Neil Road Recreation Center on a recent Thursday during phase one of a two-day technology course taught in Spanish.

The free classes focus on teaching older adults how to use their iPhones and Android mobile devices as part of the City of Reno’s Seniors EngAGED program. The program aims to help Latino seniors citizens get familiarized with their cellphones in their native language. Becoming more comfortable using smartphones can help older people stay connected with family and friends, reduce isolation, and protect themselves against the many types of scams which target the elderly.

“That is absolutely a thing that we’re facing everyday when it comes to scams,” said Noemí Gómez-Martínez, the City of Reno’s Community Relationships Manager. Gomez-Martinez said education specifically about fraud is an important part of the Seniors EngAGED program.

In January 2024, the first technology classes for seniors taught in English were a success, drawing over 50 participants with more on a waiting list. The decision to offer the course in Spanish is part of the city’s efforts to provide services and outreach to the area’s large Latino population.

Over the course of two classes, which are each two and a half hours long, participants learned basic functions of the iOS and Android systems. These included how to access the settings menu, create new contacts, send links and photos through text messages, create a medical ID, record a voicemail greeting, connect a Bluetooth device, scan a QR code, translate text, use the calendar, maps and more.

Gómez-Martínez said that, in addition to learning how to use their phones, this class focuses on teaching seniors how to recognize potential scams, as well as how to block unwanted contacts. To further address this, the Seniors EngAGED program hosts a series of speakers, some which will focus exclusively on scams and fraud targeting the elderly, she said.

Isabel Vasquez and Carolina Martinez, two local Reno seniors, said they attended the tech classes to better understand how to use new technology because it is important to them to stay in touch with their children and grandkids. Both Vasquez and Martinez admit that they have been the targets of attempted scams, in which they received messages from someone claiming to be a relative in distress. Vasquez said her son taught her that if she doesn’t recognize a phone number, then she shouldn’t answer the calls or texts.

According to Ward 3 City Councilmember Miguel Martinez, about 30% of the Reno population is senior citizens, with an increasing number of Latinos represented in that age group. Martinez said the city is prioritizing outreach to its older residents in both English and Spanish to help them stay connected. He added that these tech courses are funded in part through remaining American Rescue Plan Act emergency funds, about $1 million, secured from the federal government.

Learn more about the Senior EngAGE program and other City of Reno initiatives on the City of Reno website.

Noticiero Móvil is a faculty-run Spanish-English multimedia news outlet at the University of Nevada, Reno, Reynolds School of Journalism and a media partner of KUNR.

The Reynolds School of Journalism’s Noticiero Móvil is a bilingual Spanish/English, faculty-run student newsroom at the University of Nevada, Reno and a KUNR media partner.
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