Senior Wins MIT AgeLab Scholarship for Students Supporting Seniors
Maya Lall ’23 is one of five high school students who received an OMEGA (Opportunities for Multigenerational Exchange, Growth, and Action) scholarship from the MIT AgeLab. These $5,000 scholarships are given to high school students who have developed intergenerational programs in their communities. The award also comes with $1,000 for the organization.
She got the idea for her program during the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, when she spent time talking to loved ones over FaceTime.
Her 80-year old grandmother lives in Massachusetts, and when they were able to connect virtually, she had a lot of technology questions.
“I realized she didn’t really have anyone else she could turn to – no one else could come inside her house,” Lall said.
She started to think of ways she could help those most in need during the pandemic. Given her experience with her grandmother, she decided to focus on older adults, who make up around 20% of her neighborhood’s population. She interviewed 18 seniors, and identified that technology was one of the biggest challenges they were facing in the pandemic.
In June 2020, Lall created “Students Supporting Seniors,” an organization dedicated to helping older adults with their technology needs.
Given the restrictions of the pandemic, she first began recording instructional YouTube videos on how to use various online platforms such as Zoom, YouTube, and Amazon Fresh. Since June 2021, she has provided weekly in-person technology help in older adults’ homes in her neighborhood, establishing friendships with many of her neighbors.
“I have helped seniors fix printer and WiFi connection issues and taught them how to use applications such as Zoom, email, Amazon, Facebook, the news, and Microsoft Word,” she said.
But that wasn’t enough for Lall. She wanted to expand her organization’s reach, and began coordinating with local retirement homes to teach in-person technology classes once visitors were allowed inside. She asked her Holton classmates if anyone wanted to volunteer their time and now has 18 instructors working with her.
Together with her executive board of Lucia N. ’25, who serves as vice president and director of social media, and her sister, Nadia, the director of content creation, Students Supporting Seniors has taught around 60 classes to over 100 seniors who live at Five Star Premier Residences of Chevy Chase, Sunrise of Bethesda, Brightview Grosvenor, and Brightview Woodmont.
“Before starting Students Supporting Seniors, I had very little contact with older adults outside of my family, so this is an amazing opportunity to meet seniors and have conversations that I would not have otherwise had,” Lall said. “Although we, the students, provide technical assistance, older adults have so much to teach us about life – it’s a mutually beneficial exchange.”
Lall hopes to use the AgeLab award to build up the organization so that it can thrive once she graduates next year, and hopes to expand its reach to seniors in under-resourced communities. After that, she’s interested in the intersection of public health, health policy, and science.
“It feels really rewarding – this is an initiative I’ve worked on for the past several years, and I’ve worked hard to expand it. I’m really grateful for the scholarship because I think it can help us reach more seniors in need.”