The idea that digital exclusion could be disadvantaging a large chunk of New Zealand’s population is at the heart of a community initiative to teach seniors the digital ropes.

Digital Seniors is a small trust in the Wairarapa aimed at helping older people understand technology better to protect against social exclusion.

Founder Cathy Hardinge said many seniors – who are expected to soon make up a quarter of the country’s population – needed to be taught how to deal with traditional services such as banking being moved online.

“Even if they don’t want to engage with technology, the world’s changing and those services are changing,” she said.

“They’re being forced to move online and some seniors don’t even have an email address.”

The volunteer-based “community story” is launching a pilot in Wairarapa, providing an 0800 technology helpline for older people, as well as individualised coaching programmes.

“This came out of a master’s degree that I was doing,” Hardinge said.

“I wanted my research to be on seniors’ digital exclusion … I didn’t realise the problem was as big and as complex as it is.

“I though ‘gosh, whatever solution I come up with needs to go for that collective impact. We need as many seniors to benefit from this as possible.'”

The group could work with older people to enhance their lifestyle – for example by teaching people to video call family members who lived far away.

“I’m trying to bring in something to help seniors because what I’m seeing is that as technology advances the digital divide for seniors is getting bigger.”

Digital Seniors is looking for volunteers in the Wairarapa area and aims to branch out to the rest of the country if all goes well.

Source: NZ Herald

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