If you see a surge in TikTok videos featuring Elders coming out of the Kivalliq, it just might be from a digital literacy program starting up in February.
“We’ve all experienced the isolation and loneliness over the past couple of years,” said Nicole Perry, director of national programs with HelpAge Canada. “This is one of the most accessible ways to help combat that.”
The Pulaarvik Kablu Friendship Centre identified the need – building Elders’ skills with phones and tablets to keep them connected to an increasingly online world – and Help Age Canada has partnered with Pinnguaq to make the Connected Elders program a reality.
The organization has hired and trained nearly two dozen youth to deliver the program and teach Elders in each Kivalliq community themselves, with weekly drop-in sessions beginning in February.
Two hundred and fifty Android tablets are already in the communities and ready for Elders to get their hands on.
“Elders literally show up, drop in, the equipment’s there, the youth are prepared,” said Perry.
Youth will teach Elders some of the fundamentals of modern devices, such as using touch gestures, and then move on to navigating different apps like Facebook and looking up information online.
In that way, the program is serving a few different purposes, explained Perry. Beyond Elders learning technical skills and youth developing their own professional abilities, it’s a weekly opportunity for the two age groups to connect and use technology as a basis for meaningful interactions.
The program was originally supposed to start in January, but pandemic restrictions pushed it back to February. It is scheduled to run through next year as well, after which a raffle will award the tablets to Elders who completed the program.
With help from Pinnguaq, the program is also incorporating bilingualism with Inuktitut and Inuit Qaujimajatuqangit Principles.
Youth mentors will make it known where and when the program will be available in each community. There’s no need to apply, and Elders can drop in at will.
Beyond the Kivalliq, the program is also being run in Clyde River.