“I compare it with illiteracy. If you’re not able to use the Internet nowadays, you are like somebody who can’t read or write” ~ Participant on the ECDL & Age Action Ireland
The benefits for older people to learn digital skills
The Internet has become a fundamental part of 21st century life, and means of accessing goods, services, information and communication. More and more governments are delivering public services online, and day-to-day services such as banking are shifting online. Those without access to the internet will find it increasingly harder to access such services.
The 2013 CARDI report pointed out that there are multiple benefits to older people getting online, such as the ability to make “better-informed decisions through providing easy access to information on goods and services” and “that using the internet can have clear and quantifiable economic and social benefits”
Their study found that 50% of older adults who had received formal ICT training were more likely to go online to use public services afterwards.
Spending time online has also been proven to be effective in warding off depression and loneliness in retirees, according to research by The Gerontological Society of America. The research said “that Internet use reduced the probability of a depressed state by 33 percent among their study sample.”
How training has helped older people
In order for citizens to get the benefits of such access, they need the requisite equipment and digital skills. The 2013 CARDI report pointed out that “ICT training and support is critical in supporting older people’s development of ‘internet self-efficacy’.
How technology has helped older people
Such training can have life-changing effects. This article interviewed people over the age of 64 in Lisbon on how using new technologies improved their lives.
The stories included 74-year old Carlos, who bought a computer after his wife died so he wouldn’t feel so lonely. He now enjoys using it to edit and view photos from his new digital camera.
70-year old Ana uses Skype to video chat with her grandchild in Paris who she has never met, saying “they can see me and talk back to me…it’s amazing.”
Another older person who has fully embraced and benefited from digital technologies is 94 Italian Lea Mina Ralli. Not only does Ralli use a high-tech robot to help her live an independent life, she also writes her own blog ‘Nonne Lea’ (in Italian).
As European Commission Vice President Neelie Kroes put it:
"None of us is getting any younger. But we all want to know that we will not lose our dignity, respect and independence as we age. The EU is investing in new technology that can support the silver generation – adding not just years to our life, but also life to our years!"
In the last few years, setting up your own website or blog has become as easy as a left click. Thanks to WordPress and Blogger, millions of creators are getting their content online blithely unaware of the engines of HTML and CSS churning behind the scenes.
Content Development Manager at ECDL Hellas Anastasia Gavana warns that this lack of knowledge has consequences. Bloggers don’t know how vulnerable their site is to hackers, for example.
Anastasia was involved in the development of the ECDL Foundation’s Web Editing module, and confirms this knowledge gap was “pretty much an outcome of today’s ease of using the Internet”:
“The ease of some applications for creating your own website online, combined with a lack of knowledge, makes it quite hard to grasp the dangers and security risks that may be lurking in the Internet.”
The web editing module aims to address this problem.
The web is also becoming a more accessible place for setting up and maintaining a website for those without programming knowledge. This was down to new tools popping up, Anastasia says:
“Given the amount of online and desktop tools available, with user friendly and word-processing like tools, a common computer user could create a web site for recreational purposes. Users around the world started to want to be able to design their own personal and/or recreational web page.”
The demand has been influenced by trends in the job market too, because even if you’re not setting up and running your own website, web editing skills are increasingly important for jobs. This is proving especially true for entry-level positions.
The module itself teaches key web concepts, the basic principles of HTML, the use of the/a web authoring application and how to create forms in a web page.