Courses were run by the University of Strathclyde’s Centre for Lifelong Learning, which is a European Commission funded project aimed at helping the older generation with any technical skill barriers, by teaching them crucial ICT skills.
These courses have been mainly directed towards older women and have the backing of one of Scotland’s leading older people’s organisations.
Glasgow has been found to have some of the lowest amount of over 65s in the country who aren’t connected to broadband, in a report by the Carnegie Trust. Only 12 per cent of over 65s in the city had the service - compared to 43 per cent nationally.
The course first started in March 2015 and has run two more since then, bring the total number to 70 adults having been taught. These classes were taught by adult educators, some of whom were older people themselves who were keen to pass on their knowledge. The project was also supported by younger ‘digital natives’ who acted as tutors to encourage intergenerational learning. Other similar courses have run across Europe, including in Poland, Sweden and Norway.
As part of the classes, older pupils were equipped with new computer skills ranging from basic knowledge of word processing to learning how to upload digital photos.
Many older people, having missed out on the digital revolution that made tools such as email and the internet aspects of everyday working life, have never had the opportunity to develop digital literacy. With an ageing population the problem is likely to escalate.
A lack of knowledge about how to use digital tools such as mobile phones and computers can make it difficult for many older citizens to participate in civic life and lead them to feel excluded.
The Royal Society of Edinburgh recently suggested “one in three people over 60 can go a whole week without speaking to anyone, and one in ten can go an entire month without any human contact.” Enabling older people to use technologies such as email, social media and Skype could have significant benefits to reducing isolation in old age.
Megan DePutter, the Knowledge Exchange Project Officer at the Centre for Lifelong Learning, said the courses had been a success: “These classes have provided a great opportunity for older people to develop basic but important ICT skills. Digital literacy can provide a huge number of benefits. For our participants this included greater employment opportunities but also the chance to connect with friends or family online.
Tom Berney, Chair of the Scottish Older People’s Assembly, has also backed the courses and said similar classes should be trialled throughout Scotland.
“Digital literacy is one of many issues facing older people in Scotland and we are pleased to hear about the success of the classes based in Glasgow. With technology moving forward at such a fast pace there is a danger that many older people can feel ‘left behind’ and there is a need to ensure they are a focus of any strategy aimed at increasing digital skills and participation.
“Older people are both willing and able to pick up and pass on new skills, particularly when it comes to technology, they just need the opportunities to do so. We would encourage other educational institutions and organisations throughout Scotland to explore the possibility of similar projects so to make this possible.”