Monday, April 15, 2024

Becoming a Digital Citizen in the new AgeTech World

In a small rural town in northern B.C., there’s excitement in the air as Norma Mackenzie celebrates her 75th birthday, alongside her daughter, Grace, grandson, Mark, and her closeknit community.  Thankfully, it’s nearly summer and not the middle of winter when the weather can make getting out of the house difficult. During those times, Norma keeps in touch with her family with phone calls and mailed care packages. She’d like to find a better way to stay connected. 

Today, she will receive a gift that will allow her to do just that. Her daughter bought her a tablet and spent the rest of her visit showing her mother how to use messenger, share photos, and access different social media platforms. It has opened a world of possibilities for Norma.

The technology revolution is here. The benefits and ubiquity of technology that support aging are clear. Older Canadians like Norma are not alone in their  journey to learn more about technology. But there’s so much technology out there, it can be overwhelming, especially to those who are just learning to use it. As with anything new, we just need someone to help get us started and a resource, like an instruction manual, to reference. 

Technology should be equitable and accessible to all. Most people interact with technology on a daily basis without even thinking about it. When we think about technology and aging, there are many misconceptions – one being that most older adults do not use it. A 2020 poll, conducted by Environics Research for AGE-WELL, Canada’s technology and aging network, indicated that almost three quarters of older adults surveyed felt confident using current technology1. Older adults should feel empowered to develop their technology skills and try new things. To facilitate this transition, Best Buy Digital CitizenTM is an invaluable tool.

“Older adults should feel empowered to develop their technology Skills and try new things”

To address the digital divide, the knowledge gap that exits due to the unequal access to the digital world, Best Buy Health Canada launched Best Buy Digital Citizen – a free e-learning website designed to help older adults (and anyone interested in learning about technology) to build digital skills – the skills to live, learn and work using technology. Whether someone is just looking to learn how to complete a specific task on their device or looking to learn more about general topics such as social media or online safety, Best Buy Digital Citizen offers close to 200 lessons to support learners wherever they are in their technology journey. 

Lessons are designed to be easy to follow and individuals can complete them at their own pace. The content on the website was designed based on Best Buy Health’s experience supporting older adults with their technology needs over a three-year period. The most frequently asked questions were the building blocks of the website including courses and how-to guides. The site launched in English markets in October 2022 with French versions of the lessons coming in the near future. 

We live in a digital world and in times where people are at a greater distance, connection is built through technology. For those older adults living in northern and rural areas, technology can offer many new resources. 

The Centre for Technology Adoption for Aging in the North (CTAAN) supports aging in northern and rural communities by making technology more available to older adults, caregivers and the health care systems that support them. The organization uses a partnered approach to ensure technologies enable, empower, and engage those aging in northern and rural areas. In a new kind of partnership, CTAAN and Best Buy are working together to tackle the question of how to help individuals get the most out of their technology and provide the kind of long-term service and support to ensure it is properly implemented, used and maintained. 

We’re moving into an era where technology can be more easily embraced with technology education, now more accessible and in plain language. It’s nice to have a friend to help you with the technology and it’s nice to have an up-to-date resource to help you explore and learn on your own. 

Since her birthday celebration, Norma has learned a lot about her tablet. She is able to keep up to date on all of her grandson’s adventures through the pictures he has sent to her. As the weather worsens over the winter months, Norma is enjoying her time inside more. And on one morning, she notices a dull pain in her leg as she is making breakfast. The pain persists and her skin becomes irritated. She decides she would like to see a doctor about this issue but knows that driving conditions in the winter would make a journey to the neighboring town very dangerous. 

Instead, Norma calls the doctors office to discuss and is surprised to learn she can actually see her doctor using her tablet and books an appointment online. With guidance from Best Buy Digital Citizen, she uses the camera on her tablet to take a photo of her irritated skin to share with the doctor during their virtual appointment over Zoom. They are able to find a solution for Norma’s pain without her having to leave her home. The experience provides her with a sense of greater independence, thanks to this new technology. 

Norma now has video calls with her family regularly and has access to healthcare visits, even in the middle of winter, through telehealth. And she is able to show Mark how beautiful the winter can be in northern B.C. 

It shows anyone can enjoy the life enhancing benefits of technology. It’s just about starting the journey. 

Content sponsored and written by: CTAAN and Best Buy Health Canada

References:

COVID-19 has significantly increased the use of many technologies among older Canadians:

poll. AGE-WELL. Available at: https://agewell-nce.ca/archives/10884. Accessed April 28, 2022.

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