Dear Montecito: Raleigh Clemens
My generation needs to be taken down a peg. Those born after 1995 are known as “internet natives” and navigate the digital world with appropriate instinct. It is this same instinct that causes us to giggle when a professor has a hard time working their PowerPoint presentation or, more often these days, struggles to use the camera during a Zoom call. Pretty rich from a group of people who don’t know how to write an address on snail mail.
We don’t do it to be cruel – I know because I giggle sometimes too – but rather because these digital faux pas are so out of touch with our experience. My tall Danish friend, Kaja, likes to say: “One day, we’ll be giving a lecture on two decades worth of research. We’ll be delivering our talk to a whole theatre full of little punks, and one of them will snicker, telling us that our hologram isn’t buffering.” Today we’re addressing the digital divide. Thirty-three-year-old Montecito native Raleigh Clemens is part of an initiative to make navigating the internet more accessible to all people and ease the isolation of the elderly population during COVID-19. In her letter, you will hear about Web of the Week (WoW), a project aiming to make the digital world seem less complicated to those who are “internet foreigners” and bridge a connection between generations.
My name is Raleigh Clemens. I was born and raised in Montecito and was most recently living up in San Francisco but find myself lucky to be back in my hometown thanks to COVID.
I think we can all agree that COVID has been the strangest time. Unprecedented they say. It has been a time of new normals and no plans. As an event planner myself, I think the “no plans” has been one of the hardest parts for me. I remember clearly in mid-March when I went onto my Google Calendar and week-by-week deleted all the things I had planned for the foreseeable future. As I mourned the loss of my trips, parties, visits to see friends and essentially my job and entire industry, I celebrated the gift of time. Time to be with my family, time to reflect, time to slow down and re-discover old friendships and serve my community safely. One of the ways is being extra intentional about my communication with those I love. My granny for instance is 93, going on 94 next month, and currently lives in a retirement home. In order to keep the staff and residents safe in times of COVID, her retirement community has completely isolated all the residents by shutting down the dining hall, canceling activities, closing the salon, and disallowing visits. On Easter Sunday, my extended family (28 of us) arranged to do a talent show via Zoom with my granny. Her assistant logged her in and explained as best she could how everything worked and for the next 60 minutes we each performed a talent. My granny said this was her highlight of the last few months (along with going to get her mail, the one activity she is allowed to do). This fueled me to think there has to be something more we can do to engage with our elderly population.
My dear friend and fellow Montecito resident Jacquie McMahon, whose brother Iain Vellacott and nephew Guy Vellacott started the UK-based site Web of the Week in May 2020, asked whether I would help spearhead the US launch of the new website. We have a simple goal: help the older generation develop their skills and confidence navigating the web. Jacquie McMahon, born in the UK, has been a Montecito resident and integral part of the community here for the last seven years. She has been working on this labor of love along with her brother and nephew since the very beginning and is overjoyed seeing it come to life. When Jacquie reached out to me, I was thrilled to join the project, and now I am doubly excited to introduce our work to the United States.
Prompted by COVID-19 stay-at-home orders, this idea came about as we began to see the heightened importance of engagement and connectivity amongst people. Web of the Week webpage offers a safe and easy way to access free and uplifting content on the internet as an additional resource for our deeply loved senior citizens who may be struggling at this time. Every week, 10 interesting new stories and video links with a focus on arts, music, history, gardening, sports, travel and health are published. My friend, Guy Vellacott, is doing an incredible job portraying a “virtual grandson” with his weekly introduction videos that provide easy to understand tips on navigating the internet. Web of the Week is also highlighting uplifting work being done by both charities and corporations supporting their communities, so really what is not to love?
There has been an overwhelmingly positive response in the UK, and we are beyond thrilled to now have our US version ready to go. I’ve been so proud to see this project grow into something that will help our older generation navigate the web in a positive and user-friendly way that hopefully brings joy and smiles.
All the best,
The link to the new US Web of the Week is www.weboftheweek.com/us. Please share with your grandparents, parents, friends, and neighbors. We are fully grassroots, with only the best of intentions. Help spread the word and keep our senior citizens engaged!
A) Raleigh Clemens has brought UK-based Web of the Week to the US with a simple goal: help the older generation develop their skills and confidence navigating the web
Raleigh Clemens brings Web of the Week to the US with a simple goal: help the older generation develop their skills and confidence navigating the web