Dublin City Council is kitting out 15 sheltered housing complexes for senior citizens with computers and broadband connections this year in a bid to get older residents digitally active.
Six sheltered housing complexes have been equipped so far and nine more are due to be fitted with computers and broadband by the end of the year. Volunteers from Age Action Ireland are training the residents how to use the equipment.
The project kicked off in September when council staff began fitting out the housing complexes with the computer equipment and training has started in the past few weeks, siliconrepublic.com has learned.
Participants learn the basics of word processing, email and internet, and training takes place in small groups of four to five.
“There are 100 sheltered housing complexes in total for older people around the city. We’re going to kit out 15 in the first phase of the project, which will be completed this year,” said Peter Dee, project manager with www.dublin.ie, the portal developed by the Dublin City Development Board.
“The programme is a great way to introduce older people to computers and is designed to take the mystery out of modern technology in a friendly and relaxed manner,” he added.
Research shows older people who receive computer training have enhanced self esteem and mental ability, enjoy more social interaction between generations, more community involvement and more independence and experience lower levels of loneliness.
“A lot of residents wouldn’t have used PCs at all before,” commented Anthony McGuinness, technical analyst, Dublin.ie. “We’re starting off with the basics but our end goal is to have them using the Dublin.ie site and using email to correspond with family and so on.”
McGuinness said the internet can help older people overcome some of the problems associated with reduced mobility and make use of their spare time. Initial results suggest the concept is working.
“One resident in his eighties had been using a typewriter to write a book. Now he’s starting to learn Microsoft Word and he’s really excited about finishing his book on a computer,” said Dee. “There’s a good vibe about the training.”
The training by Age Action Ireland volunteers allows the residents to learn in non-pressurised, informal manner.
“They are very nervous to begin with, they think they can’t do it, but once they get used to it they grow in confidence,” said Dee. “They can learn in a friendly manner. There’s no pressure on them. There’s no course to complete or an exam at the end or anything like that.
“The elderly would be left behind as a result of the digital divide but we’re very conscious that they have the time to sit down and use the technology,” he added.
“All these high-bandwidth features have come on board in recent years to make using the internet an even richer experience. We see it as vital to push this forward,” said McGuinness.
The participants will attend a graduation ceremony in the Mansion House on 26th May where Lord Mayor Cllr Paddy Bourke will present certificates and the trainees will then enjoy lunch in the Oak Room.
By Niall Byrne
Pictured: senior citizens getting internet training.