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Kamloops seniors learning new tech skills to connect with grandkids

Program coordinator for the Kamloops Partnered Assistance Learning program Tanya Spahman (left) stands with client John Leflufy at the North Kamloops library branch.

Not too long ago people connected and conversed with rotary phones, wandering great distances through the house attached to the wall by a long, coiled cord one could bounce during conversations.

The ever-advancing age of technology and information that began in the mid-20th Century introduced computers that changed the way we live for better and for worse, and some people were left isolated, unable to keep up with the digital communication.

“It’s daunting, and it’s one of those things where if you don’t get on board right at the beginning than you’re always playing catch up,” said Kamloops resident John Leflufy.

He is one of the seniors in Kamloops taking advantage of a free digital literacy program, and it’s allowing him to bridge a communication gap with his distant family members and grandsons. In the past he has attempted to download and send video content to family without success.

“I want to be good enough I can share photographs with my grandsons,” he said. “One of them is ten years old and is way ahead of me with computers. The older one is into books and I’m learning how to access e-books so I can keep up with what he is reading.

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“Every teen seems to have computers and computer skills, so this program helps fill the gaps.”

Leflufy said he always got by with computers and cell phones but didn’t know how to use them to their full potential, so when he went to the North Shore library branch and learned about the Kamloops Partnered Assistance Learning program that could help him communicate better, he hopped onboard.

“So far it’s been good, but keep in mind I’m just a beginner at this,” he said. “The first session was an overview, we’re organizing photos, I’ve got a mismatch of photos as I’ve taken them so it is cumbersome to find a specific photo so we sorted out different folders for different subjects.”

Program coordinator Nakita Gideon-Syme said the free adult literacy program has been running for two years, but only recently is seeing an uptick in seniors coming into learn, with many of them working to better communicate with the younger generations in their families.

“So many seniors are starting to come in and what we’re hearing is grandkids living in different provinces are sending iPads as gifts to grandparents to share photos and videos but the seniors don’t know how to use them,” Gideon-Syme said. “I’ve been there when seniors make their first FaceTime calls to their grandkids or send their first text messages. It’s really exciting.”

Another program coordinator Tanya Spahman said seniors are coming in for help after not using a computer since the 1990s, and there are understandable reasons for that.

“A lot of reasons for seniors avoiding getting online is a lack of trust,” she said. “Seniors are often vulnerable and are prone to high rates of spam and internet scams. We teach how to identify if a website is secure, how to create secure passwords and how to keep online banking information secure.”

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Leflufy echoed the sentiment.

“Your concerned you’re going to lose something you want to keep, and you get paranoid you’ll accidentally send information out somewhere,” Leflufy said. “You putter on your own, hit a stumbling block and you end up at a stalemate. You worry about putting credit card information online.”

Isolation from communication and socialization is not the only downside for seniors and others who are digitally illiterate. Many daily tasks can be hindered by a lack of skills.

“You can get a letter from Interior Health saying they’ve lost your data and you don’t have anything to back it up,” Leflufy said. “It’s scary you go to a medical appointment and there are 10 seniors there who don’t have the skills to go online and book, just sitting there waiting.”

A couple of sessions are coming up through the program that pairs teenagers with seniors, where the teens can teach and gain intergenerational learning from the seniors.

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“The teenagers can spend time with older generations, hear their stories and get information,” Gideon-Syme said. “It’s especially important for young people who are not close to their grandparents."

The Kamloops Partnered Assisted Learning Program is a non-profit program run through the Elizabeth Fry Society.

There is more space for adults and older adults to join the Kamloops Partner Assisted Learning program, and volunteers of all ages are encouraged. 

To contact a reporter for this story, email Shannon Ainslie or call 250-819-6089 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

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