Inspiring positive change through digital literacy Exclusion, isolation and discrimination: these are words that can conjure up issues that minority groups might face, such as inequality and unfairness. While these issues unfortunately do very often affect minority groups, they are also affecting a large portion of our older citizens who have not had the opportunity to engage in meaningful digital literacy education, writes Jennifer Glansford.
The definition of ‘digital literacy’ today includes being able to use simple, every day, technology to communicate and handle information. A generation of older people is being left behind as an increasingly online Ireland fails to support and empower older people to properly participate in our society as digital citizens. Half of Irish people aged between 65 and 74 have never use the internet. The National Digital Strategy describes internet use among those aged over 75 as negligible.
A move to online services creates barriers for many older people who are unable to carry out their day-to-day business online or are wary of doing so. Government services are also actively encouraging people to make their tax returns and apply to renew their driving licences and passports online. Advantages of going online For older people who do get online, it has the potential to change their lives. They can discover new hobbies, meet new people, access services more quickly and keep in touch with family. Use of the internet has proven potential to deliver positive social and health related outcomes for older people, not least decreased feelings of loneliness and isolation
Role of the Getting Started Programme
Age Action’s Getting Started Programme aims to provide this opportunity to as many people as possible throughout the country. The uniqueness of the Getting Started Programme is that, in the main, we provide 10 hours of basic digital literacy skills in local venues on a one-to-one student/ tutor basis. This method has proven to be very effective as it enables people with fear and anxiety about learning a new skill (which can seem very daunting), to go at their own pace with their tutor, learning about subjects and skills that are relevant and useful to them and, most of all, that are beneficial to them in combatting exclusion, isolation and discrimination. The Getting Started Programme will have trained 2,950 people in 2019, and we could not do this without the continuing support of all our volunteer tutors — wonderful people who are willing to give up their time and share their digital knowledge with older people who are keen to get to grips with the nuances of the digital world. Tutors from local communities, transition year students and corporate volunteers support the programme and create a fun, enjoyable and relaxing learning environment where people can bring along their own devices, or use devices at the library, school, community centre or corporate offices where classes occur. Volunteers are the backbone of the Getting Started Programme and we are indebted to them all for their support and enthusiasm.
We run classes in every county, and in 2019 the programme has been run in: 42 schools, 39 libraries, 3 Age Action premises, 15 corporates, 8 sheltered housing, 20 community venues. This year we have run a few groups classes with through Polish for Polish Community groups in Dublin and Cork. We have also partnered with Men’s Shed in Adare, Co Limerick and with Limerick County Council for classes in Newcastlewest. In addition, we have run a class as Gaeilge in Ballyvourney, Co Cork. The Getting Started Programme equips people to successfully combat the difficulties that modern life can throw at people if they do not have the skills to be online. Overcoming the fear by having a tutor has proved really helpful for people who want to dip their toe in the digital pond. Please contact us if you would like more information on our one-to-one classes in your county either for yourself or a relative or friend. Alternatively, if you think you have the skills to teach someone the basics of being online, get in touch with us too and become a part of our Getting Started volunteer army in 2020!
Jennifer Glansford began volunteering with Age Action in 2011 as an administrator and later that year, was appointed as a Project Officer for the Getting Started Programme. In late 2016, she was appointed to the role of National Development Manager and has continued to promote and grow the programme nationwide, working with a team of six Regional Project Officers.