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​‘Digital Skills Ready@50+’: Enhancing the Cyber Skills of Older Residents

7/21/2022

Senior on computerIn a world where more essential services and economic opportunities are found online, the ability to navigate the digital landscape is essential. That is especially true for older adults, who did not come of age in the digital era.

Mecklenburg County's Department of Social Services' (DSS) Services for Adults division and AARP Foundation have partnered to begin a push to enhance the digital skills of older adults. Through a grant from Google, the AARP Foundation has launched the Digital Skills Ready@50+ program—an initiative to provide technology and digital skills training to people over 50 who are living with low income, with a particular focus on women and people of color.

AARP Foundation, in collaboration with Older Adults Technology Services (OATS) from AARP, will provide instructors and programs that offer older adults basic workplace technology skills. The trainings are being implemented through Mecklenburg County and community partners. They are designed to help increase older adults' economic security by giving them the digital essentials they need to find and secure jobs, change careers, or explore entrepreneurship.

The first series of classes will run July – September 2022, featuring such topics as choosing a new computer, navigating a smartphone, online safety and security, getting started with Zoom, and more. The trainings are hosted at Mecklenburg County's Valerie C. Woodard Center in west Charlotte and conducted by Fill My Cup Adult Literacy and Basic Adult Education Services.

Residents can call 704-705-9797 to register or learn more. Information is also available at www.FillMyCupLiteracy.org anda flyer is available for residents to share among their communities.

Charlotte Mecklenburg Library also provides a range of technology training options for all ages through "DigiLit," its digital literacy programming. The trainings include workplace tools, basic digital skills, social media, mobile devices, and more.

Digital Skills Ready@50+ is initially focusing on residents in Mecklenburg, Buncombe and Wake Counties. The initiative aligns with the Age Friendly Mecklenburg Action Plan, which is intended to address the needs and access to services for seniors.

By the year 2035, an additional 140,000 residents aged 55 and older will be living in Mecklenburg County, of which 100,000 will be aged 65 and older. It is the fastest growing age group in Mecklenburg County and nearly half of the total population growth between now and 2035 will come from those aged 55+.

Age Friendly Mecklenburg's vision takes two approaches in how senior citizens receive information. The first is to expand the technology knowledge base of older adults and their access to digital platforms. But it is also necessary to understand and address the fact that many seniors still prefer more traditional methods of communication, such as newspapers, magazines, books, television, and radio broadcasts.