Staying connected: Teenager helps Trinity View residents with technology

For over a year Christopher Otten has helped the residents of Trinity View with their technology questions, and he hasn’t been stumped yet.

The 18-year-old visits the senior living community once a week and is in high demand. Residents come to him with questions about their phones, iPads, laptops and even the latest financial scam that targets senior citizens. They say he always has an answer.

“He’s been outstanding and he’s been here a while,” Ralph Dimenna, 95, said. “He’s been very, very good. I’ve got an old computer and he’s been a big help on that, and he doesn’t mind repeating. He’s taken me through some things three or four different times.”

Otten grew up around Trinity View, attending its trick-or-treat event every year with his church. As a senior at the Franklin School of Innovation Charter School, he was required to complete a senior project to graduate; his father suggested he reach out to the community and do something with his technology skills.

After writing a very convincing paper to his parents explaining why he needed an iPhone at age 12, Otten finally mowed enough yards to help pay for one when he was 14. Since then, he reads technology news almost every day to keep up with the trends.

“My dad said, ‘Don’t you always help your grandmothers with technology?’ Because I already go over to their house and fix little problems they might have,” Otten said. “So he said I should scale that up and basically do more clients. He suggested this place, and I loved it.”

Originally he began scheduling 20-minute appointments with any resident who had questions about their devices, but the sessions were so popular that he eventually extended them to 30 minutes.

“Through the individual appointments (he’s seen) a lot of different things. Everybody’s at a different level in their technological know-how,” Otten said. “Some people are pro’s and we can learn more advanced things or we might need to go over the basics a few times, and that’s fine. It’s really fun to see people happy because they’re learning about it.”

Otten fulfilled his 100 hours requirement for his senior project very quickly. After graduating from high school, he still kept coming back to Trinity View.

“I love doing it. I love teaching,” he said. “I love meeting new people and seeing old faces too. It’s really special to me to come here and feel like part of this community and just help people learn.”

The demand for his services continued to grow, so Otten also added an hour-long tutorial once a week so residents can bring in their devices for him to examine or discuss any recent technological advancements that might be relevant to their daily lives.

“So with the class, we’ve been learning more advanced ins and outs of using the internet and different protocols that go on. How to stay safe from hackers and spammers, which is a big deal, especially with this age group,” Otten said. “There’s a lot of people who want to take advantage and we’ve kind of learned how to identify those threats and shut them down at the source.”

Sherri Redden, Trinity View’s marketing director, said Otten fulfills a need in the community.

“One of the things I’ve observed is that I really like the inter-generational relationship that our residents seem to have with him. I think from a marketing standpoint, it give us something else to sell with outside people looking in. I have to say out of all the amenities and services that we offer at Trinity View, I think he is right up there on the top of the list,” she said. “We are just so pleased he picked us.”

Otten plans to attend Montreat College in the spring and pursue a career in cyber security, but says he won’t leave the residents of Trinity View without their technology guru.

“I’m going to keep coming here once a week, and hopefully in the future two times a week. I think it’s important for me on a personal level, just because I get to interact with people I normally wouldn’t interact with,” he said. “I’m constantly surrounded by younger and middle-aged people, and it’s good to have a breath of fresh air and get a new perspective on technology and life in general. It’s really opened my eyes a lot.”