In general, we found that older adults who were in the habit of learning new skills were the most successful, regardless of age. It’s important to make life-long learning a priority to keep one’s mind sharp and be confident that you’re never too old to try something new! In terms of specific struggles when learning to use the Internet, the physical factors of aging can make things more difficult, such as memory loss and poor eyesight. There are workarounds, such as having a mentor who helps by writing everything down and making your computer’s font sizes and icons larger. Also, certain devices and websites were easier to navigate than others. We found that tablets were the most straightforward for seniors to use, and busy webpages with pop-up ads could be overwhelming and confusing.
What advice would you give to nonprofit organizations working with senior populations on digital divide-related work? It’s not enough to just provide training and resources, we need to inspire older adults to see how technology can benefit them and show tech savvy youth that they have the power to make a difference. Screening events offer an innovative approach to connect with people, solicit support, and identify resources from local government, businesses, and community leaders. We also feel getting young people involved in this kind of work is very important - this is a fun and social way for them to help out in their communities. Teens today grew up using the Internet, and I think they feel a real sense of pride in being able to share their
expertise. The generation gap today is larger than ever before. It used to be more common to see three-generations living under the same roof, now it’s common to live on the other side of the world from our parents and grandparents. So it is important to first of all, give older adults the tools they need to stay connected to family and friends, but also give the young and old an opportunity to come together and bridge that gap.
What technology tools do you rely on to communicate and share information with your team? Our team uses Dropbox as an easy way to organize and share files. It’s great being able to instantly see when files have been added or updated, and have immediate access to them. We also utilize social media – Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube – to share information and interact with supporters and partners, including a regular segment called “Ask Annette” featuring one of my favorite Cyber-Seniors! Our CyberSeniors Corner YouTube channel includes fantastic senior-created content and tech-tutorials.
Aside from viewing the film, how can people get involved? We hope the film is the catalyst that inspires people to get involved and help bridge the technology gap, but know we can’t do it alone. Our website includes lots of resources that make it easy to teach an older adult or start a Cyber-Seniors program, including downloadable handbooks that give both teacher and student step-by-step tips and lesson guides. We are engaging partners to hold screening events and promote Cyber-Seniors programs in their
communities. Those interested in becoming a Cyber-Seniors Partner by holding a screening or starting a program in their community, can sign up through the partner registry on our website. We also encourage organizations and individuals to let us know about their program and involvement. So far almost 200 signed up on our website, (retirement residences, community centers, libraries, etc. who are committed to running CyberSeniors programs), and almost 500 young mentors pledge on our website to help teach seniors tech skills. Our hope is that people will be able to go to our website, type in their city name or zip code, and be able to see a list of all the available programs in their area. We also have DVD packages for sale on our website, including a 3disc set that contains an educational discussion guide summing up 7 important themes from the film such as life-longlearning, ageism, bridging the generation gap, and more! This package also includes a public performance license so groups can host screenings in their communities and inspire and encourage people to get involved. SAFFRoN CASSADAy is the Director/Editor of Cyber-Seniors. Born and raised in Toronto, Saﬀron Cassaday traveled to New York City immediately after completing high school to study acting at the prestigious Lee Strasberg Theatre and Film Institute. Her next ﬁlm project aims to document the journey of men and women who were incarcerated before the Internet existed, as they return to a techdependent society. BRENDA RUSNAK is founder and president of Best Part Productions, and the producer of Cyber-Seniors. She is an entrepreneur with 35 years of business experience. She is the founder and president of Best Part Productions Inc., which seeks out innovative, creative ﬁlm projects to invest in and produce. CHECK OUT THE CYBER-SENIORS DOCUMENTARY: CYBERSENIORSDOCUMENTARY.COM/
NTEN: CHANGE | MARCH 2015
Digital Inclusion and Technical Divides: What's Next?