When it comes to senior citizens, digital inclusion can be a tricky business. It’s no secret that age correlates strongly with technology adoption. Yet the widely-held belief that many seniors cannot learn modern technologies turns out to be false. The evidence shows that older adults readily adopt and learn new mainstream technologies when a device or service is demonstrated to have immediate relevance to a senior’s important life goals.
The importance of connecting digital literacy training to specific outcomes that are essential to the well-being of older adults is the bottom line. Seniors learn best when they learn with a purpose — not just learning technology for technology’s sake.
For example, financial security has been a major focus this past year, with seniors asking for more technology programs to help manage money and get by on limited incomes. In response, some educational programs have crafted financial a curriculum for in public housing developments — specifically, the largest one in in North America, New York City’s Queensbridge Houses.
With support from Citi Community Development and the office of Mayor de Blasio, Older Adults Technology Services created “Money Matters,” a 10-week training course that teaches seniors technology within a financial management framework. Participants tackle the challenges of making a household budget, analyzing income and expenses, exploring work and public benefits options and learning how to save money online.
The results have been successful. Not only are the participants learning to use the most popular web sites and digital tools, they’re working collaboratively to support each other in getting their finances in order.
People are making their first-ever household budgets, cutting back on unnecessary expenses like lottery tickets, and sharing their success stories with their neighbors. Such programs showcase the real value of digital literacy programs in our communities. When we link digital skills training to real-world needs, magical things start to happen.
Tom Kamber, Executive Director, Older Adults Technology Services (OATS), [email protected]