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11-year-old helps seniors bridge digital gap with technology, cybersecurity

For six weeks this summer, a group has gathered in the community room every Tuesday afternoon to learn from the perfect person to usher older adults online -- 11-year-old Owen Lentner.

News 12 Staff

Aug 16, 2021, 7:48 PM

Updated 1,065 days ago

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At Wilton Commons, it's been decades since residents were in a school setting. But for six weeks this summer, a group has gathered in the community room every Tuesday afternoon to learn from the perfect person to usher older adults online -- 11-year-old Owen Lentner.
The incoming sixth grader has spent part of his summer break donating his time to bridge the gap between seniors and technology. Armed with a microphone and a slide show, Owen holds a weekly class about computers and cybersafety. His teaching method isn't just lecturing. Owen is also very hands on, going around the room to give one-on-one help.
"He will go there, go there, go here," says 80-year-old Baban Sonar pointing to all the different tables.
"He is the most patient young man--smart, gentle with us," adds 82-year-old Irene Barrelet.
Owen's dad is in class too as a sort of teacher's aide -- a position he's more than qualified for. Sean Lentner started Lentner Technology in 2003.
"When I started the business, I worked out of my house. So when Owen was a little baby, he was just sitting there on my lap, and I just sort of bounced him. I think, you know, he just saw it and was intrigued by what was going on," Lentner tells News 12.
"I just thought, 'Hmm..what is this?' and it just got me here," Owen explains.
In 2019, Owen and his dad started Lentner Junior Engineers -- a way for tech savvy kids to use their skills for a good cause. Owen collected old computers, wiped out all the data, upgraded the operating systems, then donated the equipment to people in need.
This year, Lentner Junior Engineers donated computers to Connecticut Housing Partners, which owns and operates affordable senior housing including Wilton Commons.
"I said, 'What about if we put together some course curriculum, and then my son could teach it?'" Owen's dad says. "Owen really just took what was an idea and then created the 40-some-odd pages of PowerPoint presentation and started rehearsing it, making videos."
All that prep seems to have paid off.
"You look at this little pipsqueak and you go, 'What?'" laughs Barrelet. "He's just--quite an extraordinary young man."
"I think it's really important for children to have relationships other than with technology," says Owen's dad. "So it's really amazing to see there's a child that's now taking technology to create relationships that weren't there before."
"The feeling of helping out your community, it just feels so good," Owen says.
Connecticut Housing Partners has now applied for a digital divide grant because of the program's success. The hope is to expand it to other locations in the future.


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