How Digital Literacy Workshops are Bringing Local Seniors Together

Blanche Morris admits that she didn’t always understand computers. But since participating in Tech Coaches’ Digital Literacy workshop offered through the Centre for Aging + Brain Health Innovation (CABHI), she’s confident in her abilities to independently navigate the web, send emails, and join a Zoom call.

“If I want to go on Amazon and shop, I can,” shares Morris. “I can also connect with my church family more. Now I log on to Zoom through my tablet and turn on my camera, when all I could do before was dial in on my phone.”

Over the last two years, technology has become a major aspect of everyday life for Morris and the Smart & Savvy Seniors (SSS) Community she’s a member of. The group is made up of older adults from Grace Life Center Church in Scarborough, Ontario, where they meet regularly to volunteer, connect with each other, and, most importantly, learn how to maintain their physical and cognitive health as they age.

When province-wide lockdown measures called for the suspension of large public gatherings, the SSS community stopped their in-person meetings. Soon after, the group was connected to CABHI and the team at Tech Coaches to learn about digital literacy so they could hold meetings virtually. Since then, the program has grown, connecting SSS to more workshops on a wider range of topics, including hearing loss, nutrition, brain health, and the importance of physical exercise.

“The workshops are very interactive and informative and allow the seniors to share their lived experience,” says SSS program coordinator Sharon Daley.

Daley started the Smart & Savvy Seniors program in 2018 as a way to engage the older adults in her church. As a nurse and primary caregiver for her elderly parents, she knows how important it is for older adults to keep their minds and bodies active as they age.

“The goal is to help seniors age gracefully,” Daley says about the SSS and CABHI partnership. “Increasing their awareness and access to innovative programs, products, services in aging and brain health and learning things, like how to prevent or live with vision and hearing loss, means they don’t have to miss out on living their best life as they age.”

The SSS and CABHI partnership is just one example of how tech literacy can improve older adults’ quality of life. As the longevity market continues to experience a boom in agetech products, tech-savvy older adults will be better equipped to access solutions that can help them lead healthier, more robust lives at home or in a long-term care facility. Understanding technology can also help older adults avoid financial fraud and false health information online.

“I’m learning a lot of new things from the workshops, like how you can protect your joints from arthritis by using a rubber glove to open a bottle,” says SSS member Juliet East.

Smiling older adult womanBut for many of the members, learning how to use technology is simply a stepping stone for what they value the most: community.

“There’s more togetherness,” explains Roslyn Patterson. “If I miss a session, someone from the group will call and check up on me. It makes me feel less alone.”

For the next phase of the program, SSS will join CABHI’s Leap – an online community of older adults and caregivers interested in learning more about aging and brain health and sharing their lived experiences with innovators.

“Leap offers communities like SSS the opportunity to be actively involved in co-designing agetech solutions that are relevant, affordable and accessible to older adults like themselves,” says Bianca Stern, Executive Director, Health Innovations at CABHI.

It’s a natural next step for the members of the Smart & Savvy Seniors community, who continue to learn, connect, and boldly embark on their aging journeys through the power of technology.