January 19, 2021

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Supporting seniors towards digital inclusion in New Zealand

The New Zealand government is eager to invest in digital literacy training for seniors in a bid to better integrate them in the current digital environment and help them stay connected.

In the current global scenario, almost everything has a digital component. Commerce, communication, entertainment and a whole range of government and private services are increasingly online. And in the current pandemic new normal, online and e-services are quickly becoming the norm. As such, to be fully engaged in society implies digital inclusion.

However, many seniors do not comprehend the digital world nor have the skills to gain a better understanding and access – making them more excluded.

According to figures, seniors will make up over a fifth of the nation’s population and it is imperative that remain as mainstreamed and plugged in as possible. Such initiatives are designed to make the country more inclusive and ensure that the elderly and seniors population are not left behind.

Minister for Seniors Dr Ayesha Verrall said, “COVID-19 has meant older New Zealanders are showing more interest in learning how to use technology like Zoom and Skype so they can to keep in touch with their loved ones.”

The Wellbeing Budget was created to make “New Zealand both a great place to make a living and a great place to make a life”.  Initiated in 2019, the wellbeing budget provided $600,000 to deliver computer training and skills for people who need it. Programmes under this umbrella also help older New Zealanders get an affordable internet connection so they are able to access services and information at home.

Such initiatives envision that every person in New Zealand is able to fully participate in the digital world and also seeks to help people across New Zealand go online affordably, knowledgeably, with skills and confidence.

Programmes like the Pacific Senior CONNECT and Better Digital Futures have been designed to specifically upskill people across the country.

The Pacific Senior Connect is a programme funded by the Office for Seniors, Super Seniors.  Super Seniors is the gateway to information on government services for people aged 65+. The Pacific Senior Connect programme will enable 375 Pacific Seniors who are 65+ living in Ōtautahi, Christchurch and Tāmaki Makaurau, Auckland to become digitally included by attending Pacific-centred digital literacy workshops based at their Churches and conducted in their language.

Better Digital Futures is another programme that supports seniors seeking help in going online.  Participants choose one of four pathways to learn new skills and build confidence with computers and the internet.

Digital Introductory Pathway

For seniors who want to use digital technologies to pursue hobbies, find the right digital device, communicate with family and friends, and become more independent online.

Digital Essentials Pathway

This course is designed for seniors who are brand-new users. Stripped back to the basics, these four sessions will provide learners with the essential skills they need to get online and start creating their own digital footprint.

Digital Engagement Pathway

For seniors who want to use digital technologies for online shopping, digital banking, managing photos, and problem-solving online.

Digital Safety Pathway

This course uses the online Digital Licence platform to take learners through all aspects of keeping safe and secure while online. Participants will come away with a Digital Licence certificate and will feel confident in how to keep them and their family safe online.

The programmes have seen good participation and remarkable results. From the evaluation completed for the first cohort of 24 participants of the Pacific Senior CONNECT programme, it showed a significant increase in digital social connection skills. The percentage of participants that said they could communicate with others digitally, for example through email or Messenger increased from 39% to 78%. The number of participants that said they could speak to others through video tools like FaceTime, Zoom or Skype increased from 4% to 78%.

Of those who have completed The Better Digital Futures for Seniors programme, the use of email increased from 47% to 86%, and the use of video tools increased from 14% to 34%.

“Many older New Zealanders find technology daunting. I urge Kiwis this summer to reach out to their older family members and neighbours to see if you can support them,” urges Dr Verrall.