“I’d rather stay in my comfort zone than be confronted with failure”

Learning ICT skills in this particular moment, when the classic in-class learning model has been canceled due to the pandemic, is even more difficult for older adults in Latvia and elsewhere in the world where the level of ICT skills is very low or non-existing at all in the target groups.

Our ICTSkills4All – Empowering old citizens for a digital world Project partners - Riga Active Seniors Alliance from Latvia and HIPOKAMP Association from Poland - discussed their experience on working with older adults during the pandemic, share their observations and encourage us to think in more creative ways of carrying out ICT training for older adults.

There are several challenges to take into account when understanding the elderly person. First of all, perception of how things work and how they are coordinated in the physical environment is contradictory to the digital environment. It is quite challenging to train the coordination of the mouse on the screen on your own. “Without help and support from others, without the physical guidance of the instructor, and without digital training environments and tools that can be applied in class it is impossible to gain this skill from zero,” Madara Irbe remembers from observing the learning environment in the ICT training activities in Riga.

From our experience, sometimes it is helpful to suggest using touch pad – for some persons it is more comfortable,” suggests Grazyna Busse from HIPOKAMP, Poland.

Another challenge in both in-class and online sessions is the negative behavior and attitude towards allowing oneself to fail and learn from the experience. This is due to the cognitive perception of oneself that is developed throughout life, experience, status and level of intellect one has and projects onto other jobs and new challenges such as acquiring ICT skills. This ‘old’ way of thinking does not allow making any mistakes or accepting them, and it limits the capability to let negative feelings and inner frustration go, thus resulting in a slower learning pace. “This is challenging to tackle in the online environment, as it is hard to reach out to the person who is suffering from these inner conflicts and does not express their need for help,” Madara states with regret.

Instructors from Poland absolutely agree with that. It is also the prejudice that ageing is connected with much less ability to learn. Moreover, the attitude “ICT is no longer for us, we are too ancient to be modern” creates barriers for learning opportunities. In stopping this, it might be worthwhile considering that this reaction is indirectly created by the children and grandchildren, as they have observed so far. “That is why, specialists and assistants in HIPOKAMP are of the opinion that intergenerational sessions are not the best choice for those seniors who are starting their journey of discovering ICT skills, if we look upon this from the pedagogical learning and theoretical point of view. Of course, we are open for further discussion and deepening this topic,” Grazyna says.

In Latvia, however, RASA had a good experience in their intergenerational courses, as the seniors were more energized and the learning environment overall was very dynamic in comparison with the peer-to-peer learning environment.

However, Grazyna reflects that they have observed a common lack of self-confidence and low self-esteem that has been expressed very often.

Madara continues with a suggestion to observe different learning tasks and identify in which the younger generation interferes in a positive and in a negative way in order to balance the effects and conclude the learning activities with positive outcomes both result-wise and emotion-wise!

Nevertheless, there are several more open questions for further discussion:

The first open question is how to enable seniors who have some interest and motivation in acquiring ICT skills to interact in the digital learning environment, however have zero level knowledge in achieving this? How can their relatives or friends help in this situation?

Correspondingly, the second open question is how can senior networks work collaboratively towards gaining a more open mindset towards accepting failure and learning through experience when acquiring ICT skills? How can a stagnating mindset be changed and advanced for the benefit of the individual himself or herself?

What do our partners think? Check in the next blogpost.

by Madara Mara Irbe, RASA (Latvia) and Grazyna Busse, HIPOKAMP Association (Poland)

Image 1: Training in Lodz, Poland; Image 2: Training in Riga, Latvia

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ICTSkills4All  is an Erasmus+ project that explored the two models of training older adults in digital skills through intergenerational and peer learning. If you want to learn more about it, join on 10 February for the event Empowering older people for the digital world through intergenerati...

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