Beth has been working in the non-profit world for close to 15 years, most recently as the Executive Director of the Centre Communautaire de l’Avenue Greene in Montreal. In this position she was able to develop and grow valuable programs by creating new partnerships and collaborating with volunteers, funders, and all levels of government to deliver support, education and outreach to the community.
A native Montrealer, with a BA in Humanistic Studies from McGill University, Beth is proud to have enriched the lives of seniors by developing financial and digital literacy programs as well as an Alzheimer’s support group at the Atwater Library. She also spent three years as Communications Coordinator for the Health and Home Care Society of BC where she established a successful “Meals on Bikes” service.
Working to ensure that people, regardless of age, feel supported and part of a connected community has always been one of Beth’s passions. She is excited to bring her knowledge and experience to her new role and to have a meaningful impact on HelpAge Canada’s continually growing seniors’ programs.
Dig-IT – Profiling the challenge of equity in access
Beth Symansky, HelpAge Canada, Canada
Dig-IT is an initiative of HelpAge Canada intended as a solution for low-income seniors to access technology and support to build digital skills. When we talk about ‘a solution’, we mean delivering a holistic digital literacy program that includes devices, data, technical assistance, online educational courses and corresponding learning materials, a community of trained volunteers to support and encourage older adult participants, and a curated resource library to help expand digital learning.
Launched nationally in September, the Dig-IT program is a means by which HelpAge Canada will assist 100,000 seniors to become empowered digital citizens by 2030. This means citizens who are connected to others, confident and informed, independent, and with opportunities for a sustained quality of life.
According to the most recent Statistics Canada report from 2017, 238,000 older adults live in poverty. However, the number of low-income older adults is substantially higher if we consider all those whose incomes were near or just above the official poverty cut-off. Access to technology and digital literacy skills are a necessity in today’s increasing digital world, and yet remain out of reach for many low-income older adults. For example, the vast majority of high-income households subscribed to internet services in 2017, compared to less than two-thirds of the lowest-income households.
Our poster presentation is comprised of a mosaic of pictures of older adults video conferencing, which create a single larger image representing connectivity. This powerful visual combined with information about Dig-IT program outcomes and barriers to accessing technology and digital literacy proficiency present a summary of both the need and an approach to bridging the digital divide that exists for older adults in Canada. Additionally, the poster presentation will bring together interested delegates to speak further about digital ageism, equity in the digital world, and the significance and increasing prevalence of digital communities as part of our identity. This includes examining research and program findings that suggest active participation in online communities may contribute to the well-being of older adults.