On Wednesday 17 November 2021, the ICT 4 the Elderly Project Team hosted the webinar “How to enhance digital skills of older adults” showing the results of the project. The event aimed to explore topics related to age and digital skills and share the experience of the project participants.
ICT 4 the elderly is a learning opportunity for older adults to help them understand how the Internet can improve their quality of life through online social interaction. The participants, a group of 55–74-year-olds already active in the online world, became ambassadors towards their peers.
The event was opened with a welcome from Peter Palvolgyi, CEO of ALL DIGITAL. Gabriela Ruseva, Project Officer of ALL DIGITAL moderated the event. The webinar started with a panel debate on the ICT skills needed by elderly people and how to enhance them.
The first of the three speakers was Grazyna Busse, co-founder of HIPOKAMP. She shared her experience in working with older people in the educational field, explaining how important it is to understand their needs and what the best learning approach for them is. Educators, facilitators and tutors have a key role in introducing and explaining media, information and the digital world to elderly people.
The second speaker was Irina Kalderon Libal, a Policy Officer at DG CNECT of the European Commission. She outlined the relevance of using digital technologies to better support people’s life and well-being, especially for older people. In the last years, after the outbreak of the pandemic, we understood how important it is to take care of our growing ageing population. EU policies within the scope of DG CNECT focus on digital skills and how technology can be used to improve health and well-being.
The third and last speaker for the panel debate was Eric Gijssen, Coordinator of ‘Vier het Leven’ at FedOS, who explained that learning by doing is the most efficient way for older people to get online. He talked about some challenges that elderly people had to face and some game-changers in their perception of digital technology. COVID was one such game-changer. Before the pandemic, when older people needed to do something online, they were more likely to have someone doing it for them rather than having someone teaching them how to do it. During COVID, because of self-isolation, they had to learn to do things by themselves. Older people needed to use Zoom and other platforms to stay in touch with their family and they children couldn’t do it for them, they had to teach them. Eric highlighted the importance to create a safe place, where everyone is allowed to make mistakes and where people can talk about their main interests.
The audience was actively engaged in the debate, with questions related to the experience in working with disabled elderly, and the age of educators best accepted by older people.
In the second part of the event, focused on the ICT 4 the elderly project, Leonor Afonso from Ynternet foundation outlined the project methodology. She walked participants through the Online academy and explained that it was created as a shared space. It contains six modules and 20 submodules. Participants were trained to become ambassadors for their peers, raise their awareness of the possibilities of the digital world, and help them learn digital skills. The requirements to join the ICT 4 the elderly pool of ambassadors were to speak and write in English, and to be already active online and in their community.
After a quick coffee break, Fiona Tesi, Senior Manager at Tech.mt, took the floor, talking about the piloting of ICT 4 the elderly training, the impact of COVID and the solutions that partners came up with. The pandemic had a huge impact on the implementation of the project, as it hit just before participants were supposed to travel to Berlin for the first international workshop. As the situation did not improve in a timely manner, partners decided to run the workshop locally.
One of the elderly ambassadors, Jana Arndt from Berlin, joined the event and shared her first-hand experience. When she joined the project she was interested in the tools, methods and possibilities of the digital world. To the question how to attract older adults that are not aware of these opportunities, she replied that is important to show people the benefits and advantages of digital tools, to motivate and support them.
In the last part of the event, Gabriela Ruseva, ALL DIGITAL, presented the recommendations for training providers and for policymakers based on the project experience. Among these recommendation, she underlined that training programs should be practical and fun, flexible and should provide individual support. Online learning materials and tools such as the online academy are very useful and appreciated, but it cannot replace face-to-face classes. It is important to keep in contact and continue sharing experiences and resources among the participants.
We would like to thank all the people who worked hard on this project since its results could not be achieved without their work. Many thanks also to all participants to the webinar.
You can watch the recording and see the timings below:
00:01:19 Welcome and opening – Peter Palvolgyi (CEO ALL DIGITAL)
00:09:38 Panel debate on ICT skills needed by elderly people and how to enhance them
01:04:05 Project methodology (online academy, topics, the idea of the ambassadors) – Leonor Afonso (Ynternet.org)
01:16:05 Coffee break
01:20:42 Implementation, how it was received by the elderly, challenges (incl. COVID) – Fiona Tesi, Tech.mt
01:34:04 Testimony from a participant – short interview
01:42:00 Policy recommendations – Gabriela Ruseva (ALL DIGITAL)
01:57:50 Questions and Summing up.