This article is more than 4 years old.

Expansion of training program will teach more Nova Scotia seniors to use technology

New technology isn't always intuitive for older people and following instructions can be challenging, Halifax senior says

4 min read
caption (File photo) A senior holding a smartphone in Halifax.
Nick Cantar

A program that teaches seniors how to use computers, smartphones and the internet is expanding thanks to a new provincial grant issued Tuesday.

Empowering Seniors Through Technology is funded by @NS, an organization that works to “enhance and empower individuals and communities in Nova Scotia through access to technology.” The seniors’ program provides both group workshops and one-on-one sessions.

“The intimidation of asking questions in a group, so everybody knows what I don’t understand, is removed (with individual sessions),” explained @NS president Charlotte Janes. “They are very comfortable in this atmosphere.”

Empowering Seniors Through Technology has been operating for the past three years. The new $50,000 grant was used to hire eight more trainers to help facilitate the program across Nova Scotia.

There are training sites in Membertou, Truro, Antigonish, Yarmouth, Lunenburg, the Annapolis Valley, and Halifax. The Halifax training site is located at Veith House on Veith Street.

caption Training sessions for seniors in Halifax will happen here at Veith House.
Nick Cantar

The project mostly focuses on rural areas where weaker internet connections force people to rely on public computers in libraries. Trainers also frequently visit low-income areas.

No matter where the seniors come from, they all have specific issues with technology.

“They feel very vulnerable. They feel uncomfortable with what they’re using and isolated,” said Janes. “Some of them are saying that they leave feeling confident and they don’t feel stupid.

“That’s literally what they say.”

‘Just navigating is difficult’

For people like Anne Corbin, insecurity about technology is a common feeling.

“I don’t know how to use Instagram. I have a Facebook page, but I don’t really know how to connect to any groups or anything,” the Halifax senior said in an interview.

The self-employed copy editor said she feels somewhat comfortable with computers, but social media is alien to her. She is mistrustful of the notifications on LinkedIn that tell her to connect with someone she doesn’t know.

Because Corbin struggles with social media, she sometimes feels disconnected from her community.

“I know how to say that I like somebody’s picture or post, but to actually use it as a tool of reaching out to people. No, I haven’t figured that out,” Corbin said.

Corbin believes that many aspects about technology are not intuitive to people her age.

“For some people, it’s not obvious where things are and what you click on. It’s more like a two-dimensional surface,” said Corbin. “I think just navigating is difficult.”

She added learning how technology works can also be a challenge.

“If you ask a younger person to show you how to do something, what they’ll do is they’ll show you very quickly how they would do it, and then you can’t follow it,” said Corbin.

“You could say, ‘Can you repeat that again much more slowly,’ but I think it takes a special kind of skill to be able to teach people how to use the internet features when they don’t understand.”

Janes acknowledged family members aren’t always the best teachers. She said @NS’ program provides seniors with a patient learning environment.

“The fact that somebody is there for an hour and will answer their questions is a big wow for them,” said Janes.

Exit surveys given to seniors after the training suggest that 99 per cent will continue to use the skills they’ve learned, and 85 per cent said they feel more connected to their community.

“Because they feel more like they belong to this new digital community, which everybody is talking about, they feel more of a part of their even local community having this kind of knowledge,” said Janes.

This training season goes from February to late March or early April, and more training will begin in the summer.

Seniors can show up at or call a training site to sign up for the program.

Share this

About the author

Nick Cantar

Nick Cantar is a journalist for The Signal. He is curious about all kinds of stories. When not working, Nick enjoys being outdoors.

Have a story idea?