Information technology is a part of our everyday life. LähiVerkko provides support and encouragement to senior citizens
The LähiVerkko project (“the Local Network project” in English) was a five-year development project implemented by two Finnish NGO’s: the Finnish Pensioners’ Federation (Eläkeliitto) and the Finnish Association for Substance Abuse Prevention (EHYT). The project encouraged and prepared participants to use technology in their daily life and developed easy-to-use tools and resources to support participating and communicating through technology. The project carried out experiments and test periods, known as pilots, across Finland. LähiVerkko-project ended at the end of year 2017.
Subjects of the pilots include:
- developing volunteer activity with technology
- participating in the activity from home
- giving and receiving peer support online
- increasing communication across generations
- enjoying and learning through digital games
LähiVerkko also organised events and seminars to provide advice and motivation for using technology. LähiVerkko aimed to support, advise, test and develop. In the project’s reach were those over 65 years old who volunteer by helping others, youth and young adults who volunteer, everyone over 65 years old and children and youth across Finland. Everyone can learn how to use new technologies regardless of age, even with poor starting skills. Personal fears or physical restrictions don’t need to stand in the way.
Peer-to-peer ICT Tutoring
In Finland, peer-to-peer ICT tutoring has been in use for two decades. At the LähiVerkko project we have developed ICT tutoring as a part of the Finnish Pensioners’ Federation’s volunteer work. We have published instructional material and carried out introductory courses for new tutors. Our aim was to train tutors across Finland. The ICT tutors are volunteers who guide other senior citizens within their own skill sets. They don’t need to be professionals – it is more important to encourage others, explore technology together and learn from one another.
Online Peer Support
Volunteers need support – especially from each other. Living in the countryside means long distances, and using the internet saves time but still makes it possible to get the support needed. In LähiVerkko’s “Online Peer Support” pilot we tested how a group of volunteers connected and supported each other through a virtual Skype group. The pilot ran in 2013 – 2014 and was a huge success. The pilot’s model has since become an established form of peer support among the Finnish Pensioners’ Federation’s volunteers.
“The Joy of Succeeding” Webinars
The LähiVerkko project has organised seven ”The Joy of Succeeding” seminars in co-operation with the local EHYT support centres. Most of the seminars have been broadcast online and recorded. Topics of the seminars have included “The Benefits of Tablet Computers”, “Social Media and Senior Citizens”, “Video Calls and Peer Support” and many other themes on which the elderly can share their web-related experiences, and professionals can advise on how to benefit from the internet.
In 2017 we hosted “The Joy of Succeeding” webinars via Adobe Connect. The webinars focused around LähiVerkko’s pilots, results and innovations, and took place on the last Wednesday of every month. The webinars were aimed at volunteers, retirees, people who work with the elderly and for everyone interested in the subject.
Media Education Material “Netikäs”
“Netikäs” is a series of easy-to-read booklets and accompanying videos that provide insight to what is going on in today’s world of technology and media. Netikäs covers six topics: 1. Media Now and Then, 2. Social Media, 3. Information Security, 4. Copyright, 5. Identity, Roles and Affection Online and finally, 6. Digital Games.
We also set up an online course for those over the age of 60 who feel they don’t understand this “new” media world around us, and want to have a better grasp on the themes mentioned above. The course included seven online sessions (via Adobe Connect), each based on a Netikäs theme. Before the session, the participants read the related Netikäs booklet so they can discuss the topic. The session includes a short introduction, different kinds of peer discussions, and tasks. The participants can also watch a video where an elderly person discusses his or her relationship to the theme. Peer support and learning from each other is a vital part of the course. The participant mirrors his or her own life and thoughts on the theme.
In the autumn 2016 we ran a pilot that combined hobbies (handicrafts) and the use of tablet computers. The aim was to organise a group activity where the participants would learn to use computers through an interesting hobby. During the course, participants engaged in different kinds of handicrafts and learnt how to use a tablet computer and social media along the way. They took pictures and videos of their self-made crafts, looked for instructions online and posted photos on Instragram.
Muruset.fi – The Virtual Grandma’s House
Children and teenagers spend a lot of time online. But with whom? Could it be a grandmother or a grandfather? Muruset was a pilot in which 10 voluntary retirees learned to use various social media and game platforms to chat with and support children online. These volunteers have learnt to navigate Minecraft, Habbo Hotel, chat tools and other platforms. Muruset is a continuing part of EHYT’s (www.ehyt.fi) online work.
Digital Games and Senior Citizens
Seniors like gaming too. We have arranged workshops where senior citizens have had the chance to try out different games with us. Our workshops have featured console games, easy tablet games (for example puzzle games, card games, music games and augmented reality apps) and virtual reality glasses.
When it comes to console gaming, we have noticed that senior gamers enjoy sports games, especially if they are already familiar with the sport. With tablet games, different puzzles like hangman have been popular. Augmented reality apps also fascinate people with little experience in mobile apps or computers in general.
For the last two years of the project the most popular section in our workshops has clearly been virtual reality headsets. The player can dive with sea turtles, watch dinosaurs or travel to African savannahs with just a VR set in front of their eyes. The elderly have really enjoyed it.
In some of our game workshops the seniors have been joined by schoolchildren from local primary and secondary schools. The elderly have given good feedback on the children guiding them through games. Games are often associated with young people, so they are a natural way of bringing younger and older generations together.
Because the LähiVerkko-project ended at the end of year 2017 the project workers has moved to next tasks. If you want more information about the project and it results, please contact Eläkeliitto or EHYT.