Inspiring Stories

“Pop Up” Out of a Comfort Zone

Have you ever stood in front of complete strangers as you ready yourself to belt out your best rendition of Randy Garibay’s “Barbacoa Blues”? Or sat behind the controller of a Nintendo Switch, while a room full of your peers cheer you on as you zoom your way to the finish line on Mario Kart?  A group of members in a pilot program at Senior Planet San Antonio got to do all that…and more.

The Pop-Up Camp

A select group of our members were the first to try out our Senior Planet San Antonio #AgingWithAttitude Pop-Up Camp. The reason? To provide a time and place for up to 10 of our members to focus on unadulterated fun, socialization and bonding through new technology.

Each day of this week-long event was designed to offer ways to enjoy some technological fun through a learning experience. Participating members enjoyed playing video games, taking virtual tours of museums, a laughter-filled scavenger hunt, and created digital works of art with a cause. Still, stepping out of their comfort zone was at first a little nerve racking for some. 

“Fear is the main feeling seniors have with all this new technology,” explained Rose Hernandez, Senior Planet San Antonio Member and Pop-Up Camp participant. “Sometimes, as much as we want to learn, we are afraid of failure, because what we learn today might be forgotten by tomorrow.”

Breaking The Ice

Since we all sometimes cling to the fear that comes with learning something new, I and my fellow Trainer, Jonathan Ushindi Zaluke, tried to make this learning experience as simple and fun as possible.   

The first few days we introduced our participating members to the program and to each other with ice-breaker discussions about changing technologies (like telephones) and interactive activities –  Pop-Up Camp participants got to see howthey could enjoy a classic game like Jeopardy online.  

Once they got their feet wet with simple online gaming, our members put the pedal to the metal with a game of Mario Kart on the new Nintendo Switch.

First Glimpse At Gaming Fun

“I had no idea about video games before this!” exclaimed Irma Trevino, Senior Planet San Antonio member and graduate from our Chrome Essentials class. “In fact, I thought I knew at least enough to get by, but was I wrong! Now, I can safely say that I have a better idea about how to play.”

After we gave a brief demo on how the gaming unit works, everyone learned how to start the game and use the controllers. Then, the race was on! Each member took turns in pairs racing each other for the win. 

The Hunt Was A Hit

After members got comfortable with one another and became interested in how technology can be used for fun, we developed a scavenger hunt  to get participants out of their comfort zone and acting silly through a bonding experience in a shopping mall. 

Participating members were grouped into teams of three and had to perform the following…showing proof of completion with their smartphones.

  1. Take a video of two team members doing their best Salsa dance.
  2. Reenact a famous work of art.
  3. Learn a new song and take a video performing it.
  4. Take a picture with someone wearing pink
  5. Take a picture anywhere with the Senior Planet logo.
  6. Propose to a total stranger.
  7. Tell a joke to a complete stranger.
  8. Come up with an original Senior Planet cheer.
  9. Find one thing that each team member has in common.
  10. Take a photo of one of your teammates cleaning up litter.

Jeannine Owens, another Senior Planet San Antonio member, celebrated her 88th birthday just a few days before participating in the Pop-Up Camp. She never once imagined she would one day be doing things like this. “What I mostly liked about this program was the interaction with other people,” she said. “The activities were good, fun and easy enough to not feel intimidated or embarrassed because of our lack of knowledge or ability.”

The Rest Of The Pop-Up

Pop-Up Camp participants next got the chance to tour famous museums of art and natural history from around the world through virtual reality technology we found at They were amazed that with new technology they can see the world without ever leaving their seats.

Members then participated in a mock service project with a digital twist. We asked them to come up with a community outreach cause and create a promotional flyer through another great website we found at  It was the first time this group of Senior Planet San Antonio members had the chance to learn how to take a creative, original idea and make it visual, digitally. 

In fact,  they had a lot of “firsts.” They burst out of their comfort zones, bonded with one another, and  created new friendships…with folks who were once complete strangers. 

“We are very happy and very lucky to have had this program offered to us” said Joanne Valdez, member of Senior Planet San Antonio and Pop-Up Camp participant. “Stuff like this helps keep our minds going, making us laugh while making new friends and learning from each other.”

Photo: Senior Planet San Antonio member Jane Chavez races against Senior Planet San Antonio member Irma Trevino for the win on Mario Kart, while other Pop-Up Camp participants look on. (Photo by Johnny Hernandez)