According to recent studies by the French National Institute of Statistics and Economic Studies (INSEE), 16.5% of the French population suffers from “illectronism”, or the inability to use digital tools. People over 75 are the most affected (67.2%). This was already the observation made by the French association Petits Frères des Pauvres , whose 2018 report revealed that “more than a quarter of people aged 60 and over are still in a situation of digital exclusion, and that this exclusion particularly affects the over 80s and the most precarious people” (Report of the study on digital exclusion of the elderly, 2018). Similarly, Eurostat figures show that, in 2018, of the EU member countries, only 10% of the over 75s had connected to Internat in the last three months.
Yet, digital technology is now ubiquitous in society: whether to buy train tickets, correspond with friends and family or carry out administrative procedures. A person who does not know how to use technology is therefore effectively excluded from a part of society. The Covid crisis has accentuated the problems caused by the digital divide since some people have been completely cut off from all social contact.
In order to fight against this phenomenon, the association Little Brothers Friends of the Elderly (LBFE), in the United States, has set up programs on this subject this summer:
In Chicago, the association conducted surveys among the elderly people it accompanies in order to better understand their needs and interests in terms of technology and to propose adapted programs. So this summer, Manuel, the first intern whose mission is dedicated to digital for seniors, set up tutorials that volunteers and seniors can take together, allowing them to become more comfortable with technology.
(Pictured: Manuel helped Ms. Louella set up her laptop and use the Zoom app).
In Boston, the team had launched its first intergenerational program, CitySites, in 2015. This fall, the nonprofit is launching Digital Dividends, a new intergenerational program to address the digital divide for isolatedea seniors living in public housing. The goal is to make it easier for these people to use modern means of communication. Thanks to the students who help LBFE, the elderly receive personalized training and can then ask questions as often as necessary, so that they are no longer afraid to use a cell phone or any other means of communication. Learning about digital technology can be intimidating for those with companionship, and adding an intergenerational component helps reduce anxiety and make learning about technology fun.
“I am a new user of this phone and have only had it for two months. I could hardly do anything with it. But the students here encouraged me to ask questions, and when I would come back and forget something, I would ask them again and I’m slowly learning. ” Senior Participant
“LBFE has created an environment and a community where we can all learn, laugh, and grow together and I am so grateful to be part of an organization that supports us so much.” Young volunteer
In Paris, Les Petits Frères des Pauvres has partnered with an association that also understands the importance of training seniors in digital literacy: the Astroliens. The association’s goal is to “enable our seniors to remain active in their daily lives by mastering digital tools. It offers digital support personally adapted to each senior: the senior comes to the classes with his or her own equipment and can thus be accompanied by a volunteer according to his or her needs and desires. Seniors therefore benefit from personalized support at their own pace, to enable them to be as comfortable as possible with digital tools.
It is urgent to include the elderly in the digital revolution, in order not to leave them behind, by offering them training in technology that is adapted to their needs and desires, in order to make the apprehensions that digital technology can cause disappear.
Photo credit: Little Brothers Friends of the Elderly Chicago