Introducing Saffron Cassaday, director of Cyber-Seniors. Saffron directed the heartwarming documentary about a group of seniors who discover the world of the Internet with the help of teenage volunteers. In this #FilmmakerFriday piece, she talks to us about what inspired her to film this documentary.
Q1. You directed Cyber-Seniors, a documentary about a group of senior citizens who discover the world of the Internet and social media. Tell us what encouraged you to document Cyber-Seniors?
Cyber-Seniors is a program that was started by my two younger sisters when they were in high school. After seeing how the Internet changed our 80-year-old grandparents’ lives, they wanted to teach other seniors to do the same; so they began teaching computer lessons at a retirement residence. I thought it was a great initiative and decided to tag along and did a bit of filming. I immediately realized there was an important story to be told there, with plenty of opportunity for heartwarming and humorous moments, so I set out to make a documentary film on the topic.
Q2. Was this film your first film project? Were there any other titles and/or film you worked in the past?
This was the first project I’ve directed. I started my career as an actor and eventually began working as a video editor on the side of acting gigs. I produced and edited several comedy shorts that I acted in. I always had dreams of directing and editing a feature-length project, and was really excited when the topic for Cyber-Seniors fell into my lap.
Q3. The film presents a clear message on how anyone, no matter how old you are, can learn the Internet. In your opinion besides staying connected with friends and family, how can one benefit from using social media?
Social media is a great tool for staying up to date on news and culture. It also allows any person, no matter what their age, to have a voice and I think that is very important. But for sure the most important aspect of social media for the older people in our film was the ability to connect with family and friends who they don’t get to see as often as they would like.
Q4. Did you yourself and/or any of your crew members learn anything new about the Internet and/or social media while filming?
Through working on this project, I’ve become aware of the many active seniors and groups of seniors online. Here they call themselves Cyber-Seniors, in the UK they call themselves Silver Surfers. There are many seniors online with YouTube Channels, blogs, etc. who are using the Internet to contribute to the online community in a positive way.
Through working with the young mentors I learned a lot about a game called Minecraft. Apparently it’s very popular amongst the youngsters, and it made me feel a little old admitting that I had never heard of it!
Q5. The film not only brings the message about connecting generations through technology but also encourages young people to volunteer. What other messages were you hoping to capture while filming?
One of the key messages in the film is the importance of life-long learning. You are never too old to learn something new, and keeping the mind active in later years can have major benefits on ones’ health and wellbeing.
Dispelling ageism is another theme that comes through. Both the young people and older people in our film defied stereotypes and really proved age is nothing but a number.
Q6. Do you have any updates about the Cyber Seniors program?
Since the film, we have developed free tools and resources that are available on our website so individuals in different communities can start their own Cyber-Seniors programs. So far we’ve had 180 partners (retirement residences, community centers, libraries, etc.) join the movement by starting their own Cyber-Seniors programs, and almost 500 young mentors pledge on our website to help teach seniors tech skills.
Q7. What are your plans for the future?
We are about to begin filming for our next project which will document the journey of men and women coming out of prison as they attempt to reintegrate into a tech-dependent society.
Watch Cyber-Seniors online