by Helen Holt

Timaru District Libraries are stepping up to help older people who may be feeling left behind in the digital age.

The libraries will offer a 16-week digital technology course for seniors next month, following on from successful sessions.

The course “Better Digital Futures” is making its way to Timaru, as part of a nationwide initiative by Stepping Up New Zealand to help the older generation get a better grasp on technology.

The course will include four units, and will teach people how to use Chromebooks for internet banking, online shopping, internet browsing, and online communication in email, social media and video calls.

Digital outreach tutor Cath Gilson said it was becoming more important for seniors to be competent with digital technology.

“Programmers often design smart phones, apps and websites to be intuitive for younger people who have grown up using technology, but not for seniors. They are being left behind.”

Changes to banking, such as phasing out cheques and reliance on online banking, had become an issue for seniors, Ms Gilson said.

She said the library often saw couples with only one person competent with technology.

“Only one of the two knows how to access the emails, the internet banking and important information they both need,” Ms Gilson said.

“If something happens to that person, then it makes things extremely complicated.”

The course will be available in Timaru, Geraldine and Temuka libraries and the four units will be rotated around each library. It is not a one-off course, and will continue to roll over so that more people can take part.

Ms Gilson said the two-hour “Device Advice” drop-in sessions which have run since February this year had become increasingly popular.

“We often get a few regulars. Most sessions get between six and 10 people who ask about a specific thing like how to use a new phone app, or a niggle in their laptop.

“They can bring their own devices if they wish.

“During the last Covid-19 restriction, the majority of drop-ins we had were about how to use the tracer app.

“That’s probably the only time we’ve been overwhelmed.

“They caught on to it pretty quickly, but it just needed someone to show them.

“Part of the training is getting the people to learn by doing, instead of just showing them.

“We’ve been pleased with the positivity of people who have come to us, particularly with helping them use the Covid-19 tracer app and helping them with devices.”

The Better Digital Futures course will be aimed towards seniors, but anyone is welcome to participate.

However, there will be limited spaces per course.

Other future library projects include digital coding lessons for school-aged children, and Dora, a 10-seater bus with resources to teach people about internet banking.

The library has been involved in providing people with internet modems through Skinny Jump, and providing digital resources such as Press Reader, eAudiobook, eBook and Kanopy movie streaming titles.