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:
- Tech-Savvy Seniors and Telstra’s Connected Seniors Program
- Senior Connects Lesson plans
- Atlanta Meyer’s paper on Technology Classes for Senior Citizens
- Reaching Senior Patrons in a Digitised Library, an article from Public Libraries Online
Have you run a program for seniors in your library? Tell us about it…