According to European Union research (2012) two thirds of Europeans aged 65-74 and half those aged 55-64 have never used the internet, in stark contrast to younger people, who use the internet almost daily. The most common reasons seniors give for not using the internet are lack of computer skills and access, the high cost of equipment and connection, and lack of interest.
Research by librarians found a similar situation in Twardogóra, a small town with about 8,000 inhabitants in southwestern Poland. In addition to admitting to a lack of skills, many seniors surveyed expressed feelings of social exclusion because they are unable to use the internet.
The innovative service
Twardogóra Public Library’s ‘Internet ABC for Seniors’ service tackles these issues through training that centres on practical daily needs, including online banking and shopping, communication tools like email and Skype, and recreational interests like web-surfing, digital photography and travel.
Growing numbers of seniors use the service
“You can’t just stand still while the world is moving forward!” said Mrs Aleksandra Dwornikowska, aged 62.
The service is extremely popular. In 2011, the number of seniors using Twardogóra Public Library’s eight computers increased from 10 a month before the training to 80 a month after the training. Librarians say seniors comprise 40% of all the library’s computer users – and the number is growing.
Courses are taught by ICT specialists and volunteers. To demonstrate their skills, the first group of trainees presented an exhibition of photographs which hey edited using free software downloaded from the internet. Seniors have launched a Seniors Club, and post events on the library’s Facebook page. After several requests, the library launched an English language course to help seniors feel more integrated into modern Poland.
“I overcame my fear of ICT as a result of the library’s teaching,” said Mrs Aleksandra Dwornikowska, aged 62.
Twardogóra Public Library’s two branch libraries have joined in, and now ‘Internet ABC for Seniors’ is also offered to residents of the nearby villages of Goszcz and Grabowno Wielkie.