New digital literacy resources aim to help older adults cope with physical distancing

ABC Life Literacy Canada recently released new digital literacy resources from the Youth Teaching Adults program. Youth Teaching Adults aims to increase the digital literacy skills of adult Canadians through workshops led by youth volunteer tutors.

These new resources focus on tools that help people virtually connect with friends and family. Four new “lesson plans” written in clear language and formatted as step-by-step guides for at-home learning show adults how to use Skype, Zoom, Google Duo and FaceTime. These lesson plans come at a much-needed time as many adults, particularly those in disadvantaged communities, face isolation.

Since the older population is most vulnerable to COVID-19, they are likely to spend more time physically distancing for longer than the rest of the general population. Sadly, this isolation can have major repercussions.  A recent study showed that social disconnection puts older adults at greater risk of depression and anxiety, and can even lead to health problems such as cognitive decline and heart disease. People with strong social bonds are 50 per cent less likely to suffer negative effects from isolation than those who have fewer social connections. While technology can be effective in connecting isolated seniors with friends and family, access to technology is still an issue.

According to Stats Canada, in 2016, 68.2 per cent of seniors had access to the internet, up from just 32.2 per cent in 2007. While this growth is positive, 30 per cent of the ageing population still has no access to the internet. And of those who do have internet, many don’t have strong enough digital literacy skills to use videoconferencing tools that may help to improve their mental health.

“We know that digital literacy is an important skill that Canadians need, especially with 84 per cent of jobs currently requiring computer and technical skills,” says Mack Rogers, Executive Director of ABC Life Literacy Canada. “We are pleased to offer programming to help our Canadian seniors, who need these skills now more than ever. Digital literacy plays a huge role in maintaining social relationships, and our hope is that seniors will access these free lesson plans on our website and equip themselves with the know-how to use these important tools.”

Video calling platforms can help support the development of a stronger sense of connection and maintain already existing relationships. In one study, older adults who used video chat technology such as Skype had significantly lower risks of depression than those who did not video chat.

To access the free resources, visit Youth Teaching Adults is a collaboration between ABC Life Literacy Canada and Youth Empowering Parents and is partly funded by the Government of Canada through the Digital Literacy Exchange Program.