Overcoming the digital divide through intergenerational programming
COVID-19 has highlighted inequities in access to internet services and digital literacy like never before. Social distancing built a new reliance on internet services to connect with other people and continue learning, especially as public spaces, such as libraries, closed down. In Moldova, pandemic lockdowns exacerbated the impact of these inequities on older people.
Moldova has one of the fastest and cheapest internet services in the world. The internet infrastructure is incredibly accessible across the income spectrum – yet only 3% of older people in Moldova use these services. This 3% is significant when compared to more than 41% of older people using internet services in countries belonging to the European Union. Of all demographics, older people in Moldova have the least access to mobile communication and only 2.9% can use computers.
As we recognized the inequities in services available to older people in Moldova, HelpAge sought to overcome this through intergenerational connection. The value of connecting older and younger adults cannot be understated. Each group offers the other invaluable experiences. In 2020, we began implementing our intergenerational programming with the help of our colleagues at the UN Population Fund (UNFPA) Moldova. As are result:
200 smartphones were donated to older people (77% women).
6 training sessions were completed for young volunteers on how to teach social media to older people.
50 young volunteers conducted two training sessions on how to make phone calls, send SMS messages, use communication apps (WhatsApp, FB Messenger, etc.), and refill credit. Older people with mobility difficulties were provided the training at their homes.
500 older people (71% women) received personal protective equipment (such as facial masks, hand sanitizers, soaps, etc.) in addition to food packages to their homes.
From June-December 2021, HelpAge plans to reach hundreds of more older people in Moldova through this program. We will offer practical training sessions on smartphones, psychological sessions for overcoming social isolation, and social media training.