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.