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Pilot to give seniors digital wings

Seniors connecting in the digital world, from left, Jenny Wilson, Mike Kelly, Ben Rickards and Barbara Hoskins. PHOTO/SUPPLIED

A new trust has been set up to help Wairarapa’s senior citizens connect in the digital age.

Digital Seniors is a pilot designed to bring volunteers, business and education providers together to help improve seniors’ use of technology and drive positive examples of seniors’ tech usage.

Former Masterton mayor Bob Francis is chairman of Digital Seniors.

“We have established a trust to pilot a new collective approach with support from central government, business community and existing providers, like REAP and libraries”, Francis said.

Digital Seniors is being launched by Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern at an invitation only ‘High Tea and Tech’ event in Masterton on August 16.

Chief executive Cathy Hardinge says the trust was born out of her Masters research in the Digital Inclusion of Seniors.

“Seniors aged 65 and over, who will soon represent quarter of our population, are one of the most digitally disadvantaged groups in New Zealand.

“Many haven’t had the opportunity to learn technology at school, at work, and socially, like other generations.

“Wherever you look, services are increasingly online, including government services.

“Traditional businesses, such as banks and Post shops, are closing and forcing people to move to their digital services.

“If non-digital options remain, they are often more expensive and not an option when you are on a pension,” Hardinge said.

“I understood from all my research that this is a systemic, complex issue which requires collective impact from all of us to make the degree of social change required.”

Digital Seniors is all about the enjoyment and benefits technology can bring to seniors’ lives, including being able to connect with loved ones wherever they are.

“This is a collaborative, collective model where the community are coming together, and we are trying to create a buzz in the community,” says Hardinge.

The coming together involves volunteers and businesses helping seniors.

“It is a community story of combining all our resources to help seniors to engage more with technology.

“We work with, and promote, all businesses which help senior’s digital inclusion”.

“The event itself is launching initially our pilot but is also a chance for seniors to bring their digital devices for help,” Hardinge said.

“We hope the launch will attract volunteers and seniors to our support such as our 0800 service and one-on-one personalised coaching.”

“In New Zealand people often tended not to see seniors as being savvy with technology, even though there are many examples of seniors who are.

“We hope to create more examples of tech savvy seniors,” she said.

The trust’s slogan is “we can”, she said.

“We are trying to enable seniors to move from ‘we can’t do this’, or ‘we’re not interested’, to ‘we can’.”

She said many seniors were still in the workforce. They might own a business and Digital Seniors could help them understand digital technologies that are coming through.

“This is very much to help seniors to support them with their learning but it is also to create positive modern examples of seniors using technology.”

This is an example of a digital inclusion initiative contributing to Broadcasting, Communications and Digital Media Minister Clare Curran’s goal to close New Zealand’s digital divides.

“It would be great for Digital Seniors to come to other communities,” she said.

“We are starting in Wairarapa, because this community has the largest senior population per capita, and some of the highest rates of social isolation and loneliness.”


  1. What about SeniorNet? this not for profit organization already provides a very similar service. Is there no group in the Wairarapa region?
    It seems a little like reinventing the wheel to me.

  2. While this is a great idea, it’s nothing new. There’s been a wonderful volunteer organisation helping seniors with all things digital for many years by the name of SeniorNet. But the Government cut their funding a number of years ago and the current Government has refused to assist financially.
    Here’s a quote from the SeniorNet website http://www.seniornet.co.nz “SeniorNet is a community training network that supports and motivates people aged 50+ to enjoy and use technology in their everyday lives.” Sounds like just what is needed to me.

  3. I attended the pilot at the Copthorne today as a representative of Kandahar Rest Home. It to me was a very very good presentation. My team leader Diane and myself would like to become a bit more involved to enable us to assist our residents more about the digital world.

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