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How Local Councils Shape Digital Literacy for Older Adults

Updated: Feb 29

A recent report released by Shaping Connections researchers in collaboration with the University of the Third Age (U3A) Network Victoria and the City of Whittlesea, highlights the importance and opportunities for local councils and service providers to understand the aspirations of older adults in adopting technology and their preferred modes of digital communication.

Despite an increase of digitally connected people, the report indicates that not only are approximately 2.5 million Australians (13.5%) not yet online, but the majority of this group are older adults, suggesting they are likely to be amongst the most digitally excluded in our society. With ageism still a widespread issue, both in media communications and private/public services, improving digital connectedness is more important that ever.

Older woman and man take a selfy in the park

A feature of the report is the case study of the City of Whittlesea Ageing Well team who have developed programs to support Senior Citizen Clubs and older adult cohorts in the broader community for over 15 years.

Their feedback into the report not only provided great insight and learnings for researchers, but their service model also provides key takeaways for organisations and service providers looking to improve their engagement and understanding of digital technology adoption by older adults in their communities.

Key takeaways:

Specialist teams can curate relationships

Specialist council teams such as the City of Whittlesea’s Ageing Well Team play a crucial account management role when communicating with clubs such as Senior Citizen’s and have the opportunity to provide a proactive approach to ensure seniors receive the necessary support to stay active, healthy, and engaged within their community.

Understanding modes of digital communication matter

Understanding preferred modes of digital communication and social media use allows councils and organisations to enhance their digital literacy capacity-building programs, making them relevant for an older adults needs such as:

  1. Digital literacy capacity building by tailoring programs for specific groups

  2. Communication and Engagement Programs assisting senior leaders in effective communication with their members.

  3. User-Friendly Access: Empowering older adults to confidently navigate online services and access support resources.


Consider your engagement approach

The Ageing Well Team’s engagement approach with Senior Citizen Clubs, club leadership, and members, enabled deeper, trustworthy relationships to evolve and were instrumental in fostering trust and building relationships within the community contributing to digital skill development


Mitigate barriers to entry of digital Literacy for older adults

Analysing barriers that prevent older adults from taking up technology such as their knowledge and ways they interact with digital technology including recommendations on ways to support them. Using tools such as our interactive sources of digital knowledge tool, helps to plan and develop digital support and strategies.


Recognise challenges to implement strategies

Recognising and analysing challenges faced by older adults and developing strategies for ongoing implementation and improvement such as our interactive Strategies for improving digital knowledge tool.  This is especially important for those from culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) communities. These challenges include fears related to technology use, safety concerns, and a gradual exclusion from activities and online services which significantly impact the overall wellbeing of older adults.


Read the full report ICT and Older Adults in the City of Whittlesea: Understanding their aspirations, barriers, and strategies to support them - authored by Bernardo Figueiredo, Rachel Peile, Torgeir Aleti, Mike Reid, Diane M. Martin, Larissa Hjorth, Jacob Sheahan, Mark Buschgens, Glen Wall, and Anne Grigg and funded by the Australian Communications Consumer Action Network (ACCAN)


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