Advice NI’s Supporting Active Engagement project includes the Rights4Seniors Digital course which is delivered by volunteers over 10 weeks x 1.5 hour per week to those aged 65+ living in sheltered housing or are part of a community group. Participants are taught how to navigate the Internet, so they can access information about their rights and entitlements, using a tablet device.
During my travels I was keen to find similar models in order to learn about their sustainability. While I found many classroom based courses I did not find one which went into sheltered accommodation to deliver a course and which was rights based, however I did find different models of sustainability.
シニア情報生活アドバイザー制度と Senior Information Life Adviser System
The New Media Development Association (NMDA), originally set up in 1972 by the Cabinet Office of Japanese Government, develops and manages the accreditation of Senior Information Life Advisers who are similar to what in the UK might be termed Internet Champions. To be an accredited Senior Life Adviser, the tutor needs to undergo training developed by NMDA and then pass an exam which has written, practical and presentation elements to it. Advisers are then required to re-validate every 3 years in order to keep their skills up to date.
Once qualified, a Senior Life Adviser can run classes, charging a fee to the participants or can seek to deliver courses paid for by the local prefecture (council). This ensures the quality of the course, the skills and knowledge of the tutor and provides additional income for retirees.
In addition, NMDA has developed SeniorNet, an online network of 160 NPO (Non Profit Organisations) across Japan, some of which I visited. SeniorNet is for older people who want to use technology, it contains news, learning materials and information on how to become a senior information life adviser.
Mitaka Senior SOHO Saloon
Founded in 1999, Mitaka Senior SOHO Saloon provides a place for seniors to create their own space and place. The organisation which has a part-time staff member, runs classes, provides a job matching service for older people and supports senior community business entrepreneurship. During my visit, I participated in 3 classes, Braining Training which was playing memory games on the iPads provided; a PC class where participants were making New Year cards; and an English class where we discussed the benefits of the Internet for older people. The IT classes were led by an accredited Senior Life Adviser. On speaking with staff, tutors and participants, it was clear that older people participated in the classes for the social aspect as well as the learning. The classes I attended were well organised, fun and relaxed. When I asked who the ‘hard-to-reach’ demographic were, it appeared to be retired business men who during their careers had commuted to their place of work, worked long hours and were therefore less connected to their local communities where they lived.
Australian Seniors Computer Clubs Association (ASCCA)
ASCCA comprises over 150 member clubs across Australia and is entirely volunteer led. This year it will celebrate its 21st anniversary. Set up in 1998, ASCCA’s mission is ‘to assist clubs to educate seniors in using computer technology to enrich their lives and make them more self-reliant.’
I attended a session with the Computer Pals for Seniors Northern Beaches club, in Dee Why which is a suburb of Sydney in NSW. The session, What Did Your Ancestors Do In The Great War? provided ideas and suggestions for searching for ancestors who were involved in the First World War. The tutor introduced the learners to useful historical resources such as links to the National Archives of Australia, the Commonwealth War Graves Commission, digitized diaries and the Trove Newspaper Collection.
Afterwards I had lunch with the President of ASCCA, Nan Bosler and some of the clubs members and tutors. It was truly inspiring to sit with a group of predominately older women, many of them in their eighties, and discuss all things tech. Among them was a real appetite for learning and for using digital technologies to pursue their own interests.
University of the Third Age Brisbane (U3A) has nearly 4,000 members and is entirely volunteer led. It runs courses on a wide range of subjects including many IT / digital courses such as Photoshop, How to Contribute to Wikipedia, and Using Android Phones / Tablets. For members there is an annual membership fee and then classes cost $5AU per session. U3A Brisbane is entirely self-funded and recently purchased their own building. On meeting with volunteers, I came to understand that they were rightly proud of their self-sufficiency, however they believed that the contribution they were making to older people’s well-being through learning was under-valued by key stakeholders.