Librarian as Teacher: Using technology – programs for Seniors

Photo: 'Senior Computer Class 9-10-07 (6)' byKorean Resource Center 민족학교 CC-BY-SA

Photo: ‘Senior Computer Class 9-10-07 (6)’ byKorean Resource Center 민족학교 CC-BY-SA

The world increasingly demands that our citizens are literate in using technology and digital resources. Many businesses and government systems have moved online which, can be very convenient for many members of the community but very isolating if you lack the skills needed to access those systems. Learning to use computers and the internet can open up opportunities to do tasks like pay bills or submit forms online but also communicate with friends and family through email and social media.

Public libraries connect many different parts of the community to the information they need. They can help community members develop the skills they need to keep up with the rapidly changing world of information. Many public libraries now offer online skills programs for seniors, as some elderly people do not have the opportunity to learn these skills at home or work. Just like all other kinds of information literacy programs to be successful, technology programs for seniors need to be tailored to the audience. So what do they need to know?

MetroFocus published an interview with Abby Stokes, a librarian from New York City that teaches social media classes for seniors that addressed just this question:

“Q: What kinds of things do seniors want to know and how do you teach it?

A: I think the first thing they want to learn about is the issue of privacy. They’re very concerned that everything about them is going to be exposed. But just because other people overexpose themselves on Facebook doesn’t mean you have to. I tell them if you’re not willing to tape that photo on the outside of your refrigerator, then don’t put it on Facebook. I think they conceptually don’t understand why anyone would want to put all this information out there. Our grandparents were very private about things. They wouldn’t tell anyone if someone in the family who wasn’t married had a baby, and that’s changed over time. So we talk about why social media is beneficial and how they don’t need to use it the way people under the age of 40 use it. I refer to people under the age of 40 as “Internet natives” and people over the age of 40 as “Internet immigrants.”

If you are considering developing a technology program for seniors there are plenty of resources  and further reading available, including:

Have you run a program for seniors in your library? Tell us about it…

Posted in Discussion topics, Round 2015B and tagged , , , , .


  1. Pingback:  Librarian as Teacher: Using technology – programs for Seniors | William Chasterson

  2. I really appreciated this post thank you. We are about to begin offering some computer training sessions in the library and the links you have provided will supplement the material we already have.

  3. So glad this topic is being addressd here. My question is whether seniors who have dementia can benefit from the iPad. I was hoping they could use the photos and videos in order to remember loved ones and their past and also to exchange emails and do memory games. However I have been having a lot of difficulty teaching seniors with dementia to use the iPad. They seem almost afraid of the technology and tap it as though it might bite them, then it doesn’t work. Does anyone have tips for teaching seniors with dementia how to use the iPad?, Thanks, Elli Klajn

  4. Having known a lot of tech-savvy seniors and teens who don’t have a clue, the internet natives/immigrants lingo strikes a jarring chord with me. It is being challenged as a model for engagement online engagement by the “digital visitors and residents” model. Basically a continuum of engagement from living/interacting in online spaces and just visiting to accomplish a task. Ned Potter writes about it here and references the original article

    Learning basic digital literacy skills like how an iPad works or how to search the internet effectively, I would argue, doesn’t come naturally to anyone and we all have had to learn this stuff at some point no matter your age.

    That being said, this kind of programming is really valuable – so keep it up and thanks for sharing.

    • Thank you for the thoughts Megan, you certainly raise some valid points. I think like any library service it’s important to be able to tailor to your clients – so in this instance to design programs that can be adapted to meet each groups abilities, interests and needs. We’ve all sat through training courses where they haven’t focused enough on the audience and it can be so frustrating. – Kate

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