As a result of the seemingly inexorable march of technology, many industries have been revolutionized. It is now possible to read books, watch movies, listen to music and stay in touch with others, all in the virtual world.
Unfortunately, not everyone knows how to navigate this new digital terrain. Many people grew up before the digital age, before social networking, texting and online entertainment that the younger generations use everyday.
The proliferation of smartphones, tablets and computers has changed the ways we interact, but there has been a price: more and more services are out of reach to people who are unfamiliar with these devices.
The University of Victoria hosted a series of courses designed to help seniors learn the fundamentals of using digital technology.
“I loved the energy and dynamics of coupling the relatively young [high school students] with the relatively old [seniors],” noted Tara Douglas, a senior participant.
The sessions were designed to investigate topics that seniors wanted to learn about. During the feedback process, ideas ranging from using flagship devices like tablets and smart phones to concerns about digital security and privacy and even jumping aboard the latest and greatest trends in social media were discussed.
It quickly became clear that the limiting factor was not the number of attendees, but rather the number of computers available.
“The lab was packed to the rafters – we had to get more chairs – with an exciting group of enthusiastic seniors, all asking cutting-edge questions about engaging with today’s technology,” said Dr. Yvonne Coady, the director of outreach, recruitment and retention at UVic’s Department of Computer Science.
“They set an incredibly high bar in terms of what UVic can expect not only from our own mainstream students, but in terms of meeting the needs for digital literacy in the general community.”
During the session, Grade 12 student volunteers revealed the secrets of using Google and raced around to answer questions.
“It felt really good to know that I had helped the seniors understand a little more about their own devices. The technology of the world is changing quickly, and sometimes it can be hard for people to keep up,” said Grade 12 student Koa Jacques.
The experience resonated well with both the seniors and the volunteers.
“I think that this is a great way to share our knowledge with others and make their lives easier.” said Trista Lee, another Grade 12 student.
“Everyone was so welcoming and supportive. I think it’s great to be able to talk with people outside of our generation.”