Person of the Week
Nick Koobatian: A Teen Dedicated to Helping Seniors
A high school junior and Madison resident, Nick Koobatian developed and maintains tech-savvy-seniors.org, a website that seeks to teach seniors how to use technology, including email, video chats, social media, and online shopping. (Photo courtesy of Nick Koobatian )
Technology is moving with lightning speed.
In less than a generation, long-distance communication developed from snail mail to email, social media, and more recently, video chats.
Photography went from grainy, black-and-white pictures to sharp, colored photos, then high-tech digital images.
And telephones? There was the clunky rotary hooked to the wall that gave way to wireless home phones, then mobile phones with pull-out antennas, and now, snazzy multifunction smartphones that—you guessed it—allow users to send email, text, and take digital photos.
So, what are seniors to do when they’re used to snail mail and rotary home phones?
Enter Nicholas Koobatian, a 16-year old Madison resident and junior high school student at Phillips Academy in Andover, Massachusetts.
Nick designed and developed tech-savvy-seniors.org, a website that seeks to help seniors use today’s technology.
Although the site was developed and launched in 2016, the COVID-19 pandemic has made it more useful than ever.
“Because of the pandemic, I added topics and information that are now relevant such as Zoom, online shopping, and video calling,” he says.
He recalls that when the pandemic resulted in widespread orders to stay at home, he noticed how the inability for seniors “to gain access to the wide world through technology was only exacerbated by quarantine and social distancing.”
Nick explains that the idea for the website originated from his time volunteering at the Madison Senior Center four years ago, when he was still in middle school. He would sit with the seniors who had questions about technology and help them find solutions to their technical needs.
“This type of one-on-one support was very effective,” he says. “However, I realized that there was a real need for clear, easy-to-follow instruction about modern technology for senior citizens, because many seniors don’t have access to such instructions.”
His sister, Elizabeth, also talks about Nick’s volunteer work and how their own grandparents have been affected by the stay-at-home orders.
“Nick mentioned some fun stories about the Madison seniors to our grandfather in New Jersey, who is homebound because of macular degeneration,” she says.
“Our grandparents, like many seniors and immuno-compromised people across the world, were essentially cut off from the world. At age 89, our grandfather was totally dependent on technology for communication, shopping, and entertainment. Nick watched as my mother and aunt spent more than an hour on the phone remotely trying to teach grandpa how to install and use Zoom on his tablet,” she adds.
As of early October, Nick’s website had been visited by roughly 3,000 distinct visitors from as far as India, Australia, Vietnam, France, Mexico, Singapore, Armenia, and the Philippines.
His design is straightforward with a simple and clear layout; he uses bold fonts and uncluttered borders that help focus the user’s attention on the information on each page.
He also explains how webinars are an important part of the website.
“From conversations with seniors over the summer, I realized that it would be helpful to cover more personalized instruction, and so I created a series of seven webinars that were held throughout the summer,” he explains.
Nick then contacted senior centers across the country and invited them to advertise his webinars, which covered topics such as setting up and using email, getting on Zoom, ensuring Internet safety, and visiting senior-friendly sites.
“I also responded to questions during each of the webinars. I was very pleased with the turnout and was excited to hear from some of the regular viewers about how helpful they found the webinars,” he says.
Marilyn, a 94-year old woman, is one of those who sent him a comment. She wrote, “Nick, I just wanted to say thank you for the Tech Savvy Seniors webinars. I watched all of them, and they were informative and easy to follow.”
Another woman, Jacqueline, posted her gratitude on Facebook. She refers to the website as “the best help for seniors in need of comprehensible technology/computer information. Thank you, Nick, for having realized seniors needed help and done something about it.”
For more information about Nick’s website, visit tech-savvy-seniors.org.
Achievements for the Real World
It’s easy to guess from Nick’s achievement in the community that he also excels in school.
At Phillips Academy, he was elected class representative in the school government, where he organizes community building and social events, collaborates with faculty on issues pertaining to the class, and serves on committees including the Grading Policy Committee to address changes to school’s grading practices.
In his freshman year, he co-founded the Andover Finance and Investment Society, a club that, Nick says, “engages in educational discourse and content sharing regarding financial literacy, investing, and entrepreneurship, especially for teenagers.”
He is also a member of the school debate team and an illustrator and contributor for the school’s weekly newspaper.
In sports, he competes on the soccer, squash, and track and field teams.
But perhaps his most interesting school achievements involve a pair of competitions that reflect real-world scenarios.
The first is with the Duke Global Economic Case Competition sponsored by Duke University, where Nick and his teammates were asked to develop a plan to rescue the Carnival Cruise Line from the decline in business brought about by COVID-19.
A second was an entrepreneurial competition where his team developed a start-up business from idea to reality.
As of early October, both competitions were ongoing, and Nick and his teammates made it to the final round.
In addition, Nick earned high honors through the Johns Hopkins Center for Talented Youth competition.
Outside of school, Nick joins his family in summer trips to Armenia. His parents, Greg and Nadine, bring Nick and his siblings, John and Elizabeth, on their annual medical mission to help those in need.
“I am of Armenian descent and during the summer, I go to Armenia and help with medical missions focused on bringing medical supplies and services to remote villages. We also visit orphanages and schools where I have the chance to interact with young students,” he says.
But perhaps the accomplishment that best shows Nick’s foresight, compassion, empathy, and hard work is the website that he himself developed.
“I have really enjoyed working with senior citizens and creating Tech Savvy Seniors, and I look forward to continuing to help them combat the loneliness they may feel because of the pandemic,” he says.
“Many times, our interactions go beyond discussing their tech questions and we chat about our lives. Seniors, in particular, are excellent sources of knowledge and I have found that through this experience of teaching people, I learned just as much from them as they learn from me.”
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