Digital skills for older learners

People, over the age of 65, those on low incomes, and disabled people make up a large segment of the population who remain digitally excluded. These groups are unable to fully benefit from the vast opportunities that the internet and technology manifests.

Today, I am particularly interested in the ‘people over 65’ above, and to bring my focus to light, I revisit investigations conducted by Good Things Foundation, BT, and Talk Talk.

The investigation in context involved 23 Online Centres who were tasked new activities in order to reach people who are the most digitally excluded in the UK. They found that: “47% of people who have never used the internet in the UK are over 75, despite over 75s making up just 7.78% of the total UK population”

But, Why do older people avoid technology?


Tutor-Learner Relationship for Older People

1. Competence.

Learners admire open, competent, and knowledgeable teachers and educators. The fear, mistrust, and disinterest that some older learners display around the internet can be an outward reflection of what is actually a mistrust in their own abilities. Older people can suffer from a perception that their age means they will be less successful at learning. This may be compounded by previous negative learning experiences throughout the life-course.

A competent educator is empathetic, and he/she seizes every opportunity to encourage learning, believing that no one is above learning. Competent educators are lifelong learners and they take every opportunity to improve their own professional practice, in order to provide quality learning.

2. Space & Trust.

Trust, space and respect are three important components of the learning environment. A lack of trust and respect can cause learners to feel unsafe and uncomfortable in the environment and the educator. In many cases, failure to develop spaces that nurture trust and respect may lead to certain, negative, behavioural anomalies.

Digital inclusion with older people should focus as much on a tutor’s relationship with the individual as on hard technical skills. Take time to build trust with a learner. This is likely to take a significant amount of one-to-one interaction, so if you are working in a classroom setting, try to enlist some volunteers in other to facilitate personalization and encourage individual interaction.

3. Patience.

The Internet defines patience as the capacity to accept or tolerate delay, problems, or suffering without becoming annoyed or anxious. Older learners might take a longer time to become confident in understanding a task or process. Naturally, as we get older, we are more cautious and we tend to check for risks more often.

Ensure that you explain every step clearly and double-check and confirm that the learner understands before moving onto a next step. Be empathetic and patient, and be prepared to repeat messages and information, over and over again.

Get the full toolkit for old people here

Benefits of using digital to transform your hands-on passion

Are you wondering if you can use your new digital skills to transform your passion?

In the article, I impart with benefits of adopting social media for your hands-on passion as diffused through my work with street-market traders in Walworth (Southwark).

What is a street market?

A Street market is a temporary public market normally set up outdoors on specified days of the week. Street markets are sewed into the community’s social fabric, and often a reflection of the character and values of the neighbourhood.

For perspective and clarity, I revisit my time with Emmanuel and Eva at East street market on Walworth road.

Upon acquiring new digital skills through Learn My Way and HM Revenue and customs webinars, (Emmanuel) wanted to transform his passion for eggs and community learning with his new digital skills.

Emmanuel CEO was convinced that he could transform his passion for trade and eggs for the benefit of immediate communities.

I concurred! He had my full attention. This is a great Idea, I thought… silently. 

So often, community educators struggle to identify new opportunities for personalised further learning, for both learners and volunteers. Now they’ve acquired new digital skills or aided the digital up-skill of local people – how do we cater for their own continued development and lifelong learning?

Firstly and obviously, there is no one way to achieve as I’ve learned that the learning requirement of individuals and organisations are unique. However, I hope that by sharing Oligab eggs experience, I can highlight a starting point or possible journey for your hands-on passion.

Impact of social media on Emmanuel’s hands-on passion

1. Market Penetration & Development and Business Development: Besides the traditional benefits and routine audience, can the unknown access the uniqueness of your product and service? The opportunities for diversification swiftly manifested. Oligab is offering every edible poultry egg from under one roof, but oblivious to the team, Oligab would also be in the middle of many cafes and restaurants.

Employing social media increased Oligab’s visibility which inevitably set the organization apart from many market stalls and small businesses. Oligab sells eggs and is also a major supplier to cafes and restaurants in Southwark. The company now runs apprentice and intern programmes for young-people and underprivileged in the local community from its market stalls.

2. Personal Growth and Learning: We, community educators, often struggle to identify opportunities for tailored learning for both our learners and the volunteers. Emmanuel was clear about his goals from the offset, and he was going to use his new digital skills with or without my continued education.

Adopting social media increased Emmanuel’s sense of awareness, curiosity and thirst for autonomy. Naturally, branching out into new arenas was going to present challenges, however, Emmanuel was able to meet the learning needs with my guide and reinforcing microlearning via Learn My Way and HM Revenue and customs product and services.

3. Brand Development and Community Learning: Street traders often maintain close ties to the community and its members. Research has consistently shown that weak-ties are cultivated through single points or mediums of communications, while strong-ties require multiple-connected mediums of communication. By adopting the extra points and mediums of communication, Oligab eggs bridge and mitigate perception gaps between farmers and local communities.

Though debatable, eggs are also famed for their protein and vitamin content and vital for strong growth and development. By adapting and integrating traditional marketing techniques with solid social media infrastructures – Emmanuel is able to share and educate local communities on the health benefits of eggs – realising his passion for eggs and community learning.

Learn more or get help

Learn more about Oligab Eggs here.

Benefits of adopting technology for small business ~

Get up to speed with Universal Credit on Learn My Way here.

Social Exclusion Vs. Social Inclusion

Reaching the deeply excluded in the community requires a careful mix of traditional and digital techniques.

According to Popay, exclusion “consists of dynamic, multi-dimensional processes driven by unequal power relationships interacting across four main dimensions—economic, political, social and cultural—and at different levels including individual, household, group, community, country and global levels. It results in a continuum of inclusion/exclusion characterised by unequal access to resources, capabilities and rights which leads to health and living inequalities”.

Social exclusion

This is a state in which individuals are unable to participate fully in economic, social, political and cultural life. Participation may be hindered by lack of access to material resources, including income and housing, or information or services such as education and health care. Exclusion impacts the quality of life of individuals and their geography.

It involves the lack or denial of resources, rights, goods and services, and the inability to participate in the normal relationships and activities, available to the majority of people in a society, whether in economic, social, cultural or political arenas. It affects both the quality of life of individuals and the equity and cohesion of society as a whole


Social Inclusion

Social inclusion on the other hand ensures that those at risk of poverty and exclusion gain opportunities and resources necessary to participate fully in economic, social, political and cultural life. Social inclusion is the process of improving the terms of participation in society, particularly, for people who are disadvantaged, through enhancing opportunities, access to resource, voice, security and respect for rights.

Process of improving the terms for individuals and groups to take part in society. It aims to empower poor and marginalised people to take advantage of rising opportunities in emerging forms of economies.


Learn more about Digital inclusion at Online Centres Network.