Indochinese Elderly Refugees Association (IERA) is a multi-service organisation that helps older people from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds preserve and promote their cultural heritage.
IERA saw a need for technology classes where their members could come together and learn digital skills in a comfortable setting. Ly Doan, IERA digital mentor, says, “Nowadays, older adults are surrounded by an array of digital devices, whether it’s smartphones, social media, tablets, banking machines, or laptops, there’s no avoiding it. So, we think they should learn how to use all these technological advances to make life easier.”
Ly wanted the senior members to take advantage of being informed and connected to today’s technology to improve their lives. “Getting digital literacy training can give older adults the skills and confidence to access information and services online. But maybe more than that, computer skills can open up new worlds. They can create new possibilities for creativity and enjoyment. They create new ways to stay engaged with the world. Working with elderly people every day helps us understand the importance of information technology in their real life.”
Their classes are designed to identify and meet each learner’s needs. They use the Be Connected resources as a beginner’s guide to cover the basics of computer use. However, depending on the needs of each participant, whether they have specific difficulties or impairments, Ly often tailors the lessons utilising other sources such as online games, social media, or YouTube. “The question we ask every day is: ‘What do you want to learn and what is the best way to ensure your needs are met?’”
They’ve received a lot of compliments and positive feedback from their community, especially about being able to learn in their own language and having the Be Connected tip sheets available in Vietnamese. One learner, 75-year-old Mrs Huynh, says, “I love the pleasant atmosphere here, Ms Mai (one of our tutors) taught me in a fun way using simple words and speaking my own mother tongue language, it makes it so easy to learn.”
IERA hold both an Activation grant and a Building Digital Skills grant. The funding has gone towards tutoring and staffing costs, as well as buying new devices such as computers, laptops, iPads, and tablets. Ly believes teaching older adults is totally different from any other audience. You need to understand what they want before starting the training. “Learning new things definitely takes more time as you get older. We believe it’s important to invest time teaching them things they enjoy doing so they’ll experience meaningful rewards.”