Discovering digital literacy

I vividly remember the evening I was able to finally jettison my bicycle’s training wheels. Neighbors probably thought Indy 500 had arrived from across the pond as my friends and I zoomed around the block; no yellow flag, or Mom yelling “dinner!” for the hundredth time that evening, could keep me from stopping due to unfettered jubilation.

Similar exhilaration must accompany a child who just learned to read as parents find their youngsters reading under their covers with only a flashlight; words are coming to life in front of their eyes!

Whether riding a bicycle without training wheels or becoming literate, these are “life skills” that, once attained, are nurtured throughout life.

There is a new life skill that augments traditional literacy. It was borne upon the arrival of the internet (aka the cloud) and has made a huge impact on people's lives.

It is called “digital literacy” and it refers to the ability to use technology to find, use and create information. Last December, 12 seniors, ages 62 to 84, graduated from our nonprofit’s free “Discover Digital Literacy!” program; they now feel empowered to enrich their lives by using devices such as a tablet or smartphone. A new class of 12 seniors recently embarked on the same journey at the Westlake Senior Center.

Not everyone, especially seniors enjoying retirement or a relaxed lifestyle in their golden years, needs the complexity nor the power offered by a full-blown computer system; anecdotal evidence suggests that such systems can actually intimidate many seniors to the point of inaction.

As our nonprofit applies for grants so we can continue to expand our Discover Digital Literacy! program, we also strive to be self-sustaining by organizing events such as our inaugural “Living in the Digital World Senior Expo” at the Rocky River Civic Center on Thursday, May 4, 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Admission is free and it features exhibitors, door prizes, demonstrations, short presentations and even a tablet given away as the grand prize!

Although Discover Digital Literacy! is free to seniors, each new program location requires 12 tablets and incurs other expenses. Depending on how many seniors go through the program each year, it can cost approximately $1,500 to $1,800 per senior when all expenses are tallied up. Thus on top of grants and fundraisers, we are seeking corporate sponsors. We hope to be able to award tablets to seniors as a program graduation gift so they can continue developing their newly acquired life skill.

Currently offered on a limited basis exclusively through senior centers in Westlake and North Olmsted, we aim to expand the program to reach more seniors in the Westshore area. Seniors discovering digital literacy should be a new social movement since a 2016 Pew Research Center survey showed that 36 percent of Americans over 65 years of age do not use the internet!

Tak Sato

Technology and Organization Strategist with over 25 years of experience. Holds Bachelor of Science in Computer Information Science and Executive MBA from Cleveland State University.

As co-founder of Center for Aging in the Digital World, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit empowering seniors through technology, and founder of geek with a heart with the service mark "Hand-holding You in the Digital World", Tak helps people utilize appropriate technology in their personal and professional lives.

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Volume 9, Issue 9, Posted 9:30 AM, 05.02.2017