An Elmhurst, Willaura and Streatham-based program has been helping senior residents upskill, use their devices, and get connected online.
The Bridging the Gap to Digital Literacy program, run by Ararat Rural City Council, provides classes for vulnerable community members looking to build on their digital skills.
Council chief executive Dr Tim Harrison said the program provides much-needed digital literacy support within rural communities across the municipality.
"The pandemic has created a shift to online services, which requires elderly residents to adopt new technologies or risk getting left behind," he said.
"Bridging the Gap to Digital Literacy strengthens communities and creates life-changing opportunities for many of our elderly residents - giving them core skills, access and confidence to use digital technologies.
"The program has had a strong start with over 20 senior citizens attending group digital literacy sessions conducted in Willaura, Elmhurst and Streatham, covering topics from navigating google maps, managing safe passwords, dictation, to how to send photos.
"One-on-one sessions follow the group sessions to provide personalised support and fill in any gaps or questions residents may have that aren't covered in the group sessions.
"With many families disconnected by the pandemic, it's never been more important for people to stay connected through messaging and sharing of photos."
One of the program's Elmhurst participants, Ellen McCartney-Lees, found the program to be helpful and strongly recommends others to get involved.
"I joined the program as I never had a tablet and wanted to know more about them," she said.
"I have learned about google maps, sending photos, navigating the Medicare App and accessing vaccinations. I've enjoyed learning how to browse quilting sites, library games and more."
Elmhurst resident Jen Peacock said the program provided a safe and encouraging space to learn about technologies.
"I found out about the program through the Elmhurst Bush Nursing Centre - I'm not very tech-savvy and needed to learn how to use the Medicare App, set up my phone and use the computer a bit more," Jeshe said.
"Moya (Council's Digital Literacy Support Officer) was very patient and helped set up MyGov online so I can easily access the service and unlocked my smartphone too."
The program has also encouraged Jen to continue advancing her computer skills, learn more about Windows, and create a favourites list on her web browser..
"As I'm older, technology is not something I grew up with -- it's good to have someone who can help without any judgement." Ms Peacock concluded.
The Bridging the Gap to Digital Literacy project is supported by Ararat Rural City Council and the Victorian Government. If you are interested in the program or know someone who is, please contact Ms Moya Carroll to leave a message on 03 5355 0232.
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