Second-year UTM Student Vibhor Rohatgi, who is pursuing a specialist in environmental science, attended this year’s United Nations Youth Assembly in New York City. The 20th session of the Youth Assembly at the United Nations ran from August 9th to August 12th, and centered around the theme “Society for All: Equity and Inclusion for a Sustainable Future.”

At the conference, Rohatgi presented his initiative, the Silver Surfer Programme, which teaches the elderly suffering from ‘empty nest syndrome’ how to connect with their family while they are abroad.

The United Nations Youth Assembly accepts over 1,000 qualified youth delegates from all over the world, representing 112 countries, to develop new social initiatives that help achieve the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) at a three-day conference in New York City. As described on the youth assembly’s official website, “guided by the overarching principle of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development,” the delegates enter into a series of competitions, events, and workshops where they learn from partner organizations, such as Microsoft, and network with like-minded global citizens.

There are 17 SDGs that are all aimed at improving the life, wellness, and sustainability of life worldwide. They include everything from peace, justice, and strong institutions, to climate action, to sustainable cities and communities.

Rohatgi says that he was targeting SDG #11 when he started the Silver Surfer Programme. SDG #11 aims to “make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable.”

The second-year UTM student designed the Silver Surfer programme to help people cope with ‘empty nest syndrome,’ which refers to feelings of depression, sadness, or grief experienced by parents and caregivers after children come of age and leave their childhood home. Although the Journal of Counselling and Development does not describe the syndrome as a clinical diagnosis, it is referred to as “a transition period in which many people experience feelings of loneliness or loss.”

“With this problem in mind, my aim was to re-equip the elderly with the tools of technology,” says Rohatgi, “not only to make their lives easier, but also to enable them to connect better with their more tech-savvy family members.”

Rohatgi, hopes to connect recently empty-nested seniors with the online world through a series of free-of-charge workshops. With the help of student volunteers, participants are taught “skills such as social-networking (through Facebook and email), online-payments of utility bills, such as electricity and water, and online-medication management.”

This initiative is not yet available in Canada, however Rohatgi says he has started approaching old-age homes in the GTA and hopes to make access possible in the near future.

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