Young people show the older generation the way in the digital world

Nowadays, Trudy (67) ‘FaceTimes’ with her grandchildren on her iPad and plays the game Wordfeud with friends, but until very recently, she was computer-illiterate. She’s very honest about that. She loves knowing her way around the new technology. The young teachers in the ‘North Holland Connects’ (‘Noord-Holland Verbindt’) learning project are showing her the way.

Vocational school students teach senior citizens how to use iPads

'I saw the ease with which my grandchildren use those iPads. I wanted to learn to do the same,' says Trudy van Eerden. 'And not just because it’s fun, but also to be prepared for the future. You have to keep in mind that, further down the line, you’ll probably find it harder to get out and about – fortunately, I don’t have any issues with that myself just yet. New technology, however, lets you do your grocery shopping online and have it delivered to your door. If you’re feeling under the weather, you can tell your doctor what’s wrong online. You have to find a way to sort all that out for yourself, especially if you don’t have any children living near you.'

'Not just because it’s fun, but also to be prepared for the future.'

Trudy, senior citizen

Helping the older generation to be self-sufficient

Jolande Verhulst and Sandra van Zwol developed the ‘North Holland Connects’ concept for people just like Trudy. Jolande: 'More and more, the older generation is being offered the possibility of managing things from their tablet, like domotics, reading the paper, or doing their online banking. It’s important to stay up to speed. We want to contribute to that by enabling the elderly to be digitally self-sufficient. That’s why we went looking for iPad experts to teach the courses and we found them in the vocational schools of North Holland. For the ICT students in these schools, dealing with mobile devices like the iPad is a piece of cake. And, as part of their course, they are required to practice giving user support and further develop their social skills. This means that by employing them as teachers we can kill two birds with one stone.'

Learning by teaching

Vocational school student Sven Truschel (17) is one of the young people who taught a group of senior citizens how to use an iPad. 'Teaching made me more confident to present in front of a group,' he says. 'I learned how to explain things more simply. As an ICT specialist, I tended to phrase things rather complicatedly. I also really enjoyed being in front of a classroom full of older people.' The ‘silver surfers’ and the ‘young whizzes’ like to exchange stories sometimes, comparing ‘the olden days’ to how things are now – what parties were once like for example, or how often you went out on the town. This, too, reveals what has changed in the internet age: it’s very practical, for example, to be able to pay for a beer in the pub using your smartphone.

'In North Holland, more than 340 senior citizens completed an iPad course.'

Strengthening each other

The local Rabobanks in North Holland are contributing to the iPad courses as sponsors, making venues available for the classes and promoting them with special offers for members in the Rabobank magazine Dichterbij. 'The ideas behind ‘North Holland Connects’ are very much in line with the role we want to play in the community,' says Peter Ruigrok of Rabobank IJmond. 'It’s about strengthening each other and helping each other function independently. It’s great to see different generations having a share in each other’s development.'

The iPad course

The iPad course for older people consists of a series of nine lessons, followed by an exam. A maximum of ten senior citizens can take part in any one course. The courses are taught by 5 to 7 vocational school students, with additional support from KBO volunteers, the senior citizens' association in North Holland. After the exam, successful candidates receive a certificate and will have acquired the basic skills required to work with an iPad, such as using the home button, adjusting the settings, locking the screen and working with apps such as Safari, FaceTime, Spotify, iTunes and Google Maps (Trudy: 'It’s a lot of fun looking up your own house and that of your children').

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