Federal funding to assist local seniors in accessing Internet through new office


Thanks to funding provided through the Government of Canada’s New Horizons for Seniors Program, patrons of the Rimbey Seniors Drop-In Centre will soon be able to go high-tech and as an added bonus, they’ll be able to access help navigating the World Wide Web.

“Basically, what we’ve done with the grant money we received is we’re setting up an office site down at the Drop-In Centre, and it will be equipped with computers, high-speed Internet and all kinds of equipment that people might need for things like filling out forms, to go on-line – there’ll be a digital camera so the seniors can take a picture and post it on Facebook, if that’s what they’re into and basically, anything else we could think of to make a good office situation,” said FCSS Executive Director Peggy Makofka.

In addition to all the new high-tech equipment, the office will also include other necessities such as a paper shredder, hole punches and laminators allowing the seniors the opportunity to take a more active role in joining the computer era while also allowing them to basically access the entire world through the Internet, something that many may have never done before.

“We think there is an interest with the whole idea of the computers and being able to go on-line particularly by seniors,” Makofka said. “This is a group of people who didn’t grow up with this kind of technology and so a lot of them are just getting started, so we feel there is some interest there. As far as a need, we know there is a need to help senior citizens being able to access government programs and find out about different services.”

She said with the addition of the new office, seniors will be able to personally access information from sources such as the federal and provincial governments in regards to things like pension information and filing their income tax returns.

Working in conjunction with a previous program involving volunteers working with seniors and low-income individuals to prepare tax returns, the new high-tech office is a natural progression.

Another exciting element to the new program is the involvement of members of the FCSS Youth Activity Program, which will see those members assisting the seniors in what organizers call a, “cross-generational project”.

“That’s the new piece to it,” Makofka said. “We know it probably happens all the time now with kids helping their grandparents and even their parents learning to run a computer, but in this case it’s going to be a little more formalized where we have the kids from the Youth Activity Program involved with the staff on that program, and they’re going to work in a more-structured setting, to offer this help to seniors.”

By combining the two vastly different groups in terms of age, Makofka said it has created excitement in both groups, especially the younger one.

“I think the kids are quite excited, and why wouldn’t they be? This time, they’re the ones who have the skills and the knowledge and I think it’s a great opportunity,” she said. “Often, when you’re a kid, it’s the adults and the seniors that have all the skills and the knowledge and you’re the kid trying to learn, but in this case it’s going to kind of turn things around because really, it’s the kids nowadays that know the most about computers and programs and things.”

In addition to the opening of the new office, seniors will also soon be able to attend classes aimed for the most part, at teaching them various other aspects of high-tech equipment that will be offered at the Drop-In Centre. Although the classes and other details have yet to be finalized, organizers have a framework for what those classes should involve.

“I think it’s going to be based on their interests,” said Project Coordinator Jeanette Towle. “It’ll probably include some courses for first-time computer users such as how to turn it on, how to do some word processing, how to download – and they may be courses specific to those areas so that they’re not overloaded in one session.”

To kick things off in fine style, the Drop-In Centre will be hosting an open house on May 8 in which they’ll be inviting the public to join them for a tour of the new office as well as partaking in a number of other events planned for that day. In addition, organizers are also planning a Seniors Fair to be held in early June.

Advertisements detailing both events will be released soon.