Notebook > Technology

Senior moments

Technology | A London startup taps the skills and knowledge of retireees for younger generations

Issue: "Agony and ecstasy," April 7, 2012

The number of senior citizens using social media websites like Facebook grew 150 percent from 2009 to 2011, suggesting the older generation doesn't want to become disconnected from the world of the younger one. A unique startup in London could help two (or three or four) generations stay connected by enabling seniors to share not photos and links but old-fashioned skills and knowledge.

The venture has been named The Amazings, and its website ( explains why: "An Amazing is anyone who has retired or is about to retire who has something interesting they think they can turn into an activity. It could be anything from having lived in Hackney the whole of your life, knowing how to make jam, to owning a barge on the River Lea." The organization's staff of three handpicks seasoned citizens who are both knowledgeable and personable, then schedules classes where they can teach what they know to others and make a little money to boot.

For example, "Introduction to Crochet with Bernadette"-a woman with short, snow-white hair who started crocheting when she was 5-is scheduled for two hours on April 11 in Broadway Market. Tickets cost £20 (about $30), and the yarn and needles are provided. An April 14 class, "Cook Hungarian Food with Jimmy," is slightly more expensive, but offers six attendees the opportunity to cook alongside a professional chef who has worked for Hilton Hotels & Resorts and cooked for the now-deceased Queen Mother. Other options include dance, drama, and 1950s hairstyling classes; tours led by a local history expert; and a foraging walk where participants prepare their own lunch from edible plants they've collected.

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The Amazings launched last August, and its services for now remain limited to London. That's too bad: Although some U.S. organizations, like ReServe and Civic Ventures, help baby boomers and retirees find jobs in the nonprofit and public service sectors, a networking hub like The Amazings could fill a niche by connecting the young with their elders' wisdom.

Phone aid

Eliana Aponte/Reuters/Landov

This spring the United Nations Development Programme and the Haitian government will give $500 each to 1,000 poor families whose homes were damaged in the 2010 earthquake, enabling them to buy cement, lumber, and other construction materials needed to rebuild their houses. The aid won't come as a check or wad of bills, though: With Haitians five times more likely to have a mobile phone than a bank account, the UNDP will dispense the money as mobile cash vouchers. It's the first time such an arrangement has been used to subsidize home reconstruction after a disaster, according to the organization.

Phone-based banking is wildly popular in Africa, and because mobile vouchers are safer than carrying cash, the technology is ideal for Haiti, where violent crime has grown in recent years. Despite a three-fold increase in police officers since 2004, the murder rate in Port-au-Prince, the nation's capital, stands at 61 per 100,000 residents, according to a study released in March. -Daniel James Devine

Daniel James Devine
Daniel James Devine

Daniel is managing editor of WORLD Magazine and lives in Indiana. Follow Daniel on Twitter @DanJamDevine.


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