Renfrewshire Council’s plan to close the digital divide by implementing tablet classes for older Buddies is proving successful.
Since October 2016 a series of six week tablet training courses have been held with older members of the community. To date over 80 older people have either undergone the course or are currently taking part and there is a growing waiting list.
During the classes participants go from the basics of how to turn on and handle a tablet, to how to safe search online, send emails, use social media, install apps, and sort simple problems.
Jim Higgins (60) attended the first adult tablet class last year as a way to refresh his own knowledge and learn new skills.
He said: “I had always been interested in computers and IT and was keen to learn more. One of the main things I enjoyed was engaging with the other people my age and it was a good thing to do to get me out the house.”
Having completed the initial six week course Jim now volunteers at the weekly classes to help other people like him become more comfortable with technology.
Jim went on to say: “Talking and socialising with other people my age really helps with my self-confidence. It’s also great to think that I’m helping other people. I would encourage anyone thinking about joining the course, regardless of their level of understanding, to get in touch – it really helps make people more comfortable using technology.”
Depute Leader of Renfrewshire Council, Cllr Mike Holmes, said: “Increasing digital participation is a key part of our approach to tackling poverty. This project adopts a more person-centred approach, helping those who face the most barriers in our society build their digital skills and access technology that can help make their lives easier.
“Projects like this continue to demonstrate the council’s commitment to ensuring everyone has the opportunity to reach their digital potential and access all the economic, health, social and cultural benefits that being online can bring, regardless of their age.”
Tablet devices are increasingly popular with the older generation. They are more user friendly and tablets are a relatively cheap way of getting online compared with other computing devices – this is why they were chosen as the focus of the training.
The classes are carried out by Renfrewshire Council’s Digital Participation Officer in partnership with Roar: Connections for Life and is supported by the Council as part of its Tackling Poverty programme.
Digital Participation Officer, Paul Cameron, said: “The tablet classes have proved very popular. We aim to make people more confident using tablets and encouraging them to become more inquisitive about the devices and the opportunities being online opens up for them.
“The most common reason we are seeing for people signing up is to stay in touch with family members – they know they’re missing out and becoming more digitally confident will enable them to communicate with family members through social media and other channels.”
The Tackling Poverty Strategy outlined the important role digital participation plays in tackling poverty. This initiative embodies one of the key principles of the strategy which is to address stigma and remove barriers to technology by ensuring that digital access and training is available in locations which are used by and accessible to target groups.
The classes were set up as part of the Digital Renfrewshire Strategy which sets out how the Council and its partners aim to tackle digital exclusion, improve digital public services and infrastructure, and use digital technology and skills to grow Renfrewshire’s economy.
Those interested in participating in the classes can contact Roar: Choices for Life: 0141 889 7481 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org. Those with a good working knowledge of tablets wishing to volunteer should contact Lauren Gilmour, Digital Volunteer Co-ordinator, Engage Renfrewshire, 0141 887 7707 email: lgilmour@engagerenfrewshire.