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Calling Digital Champions - Age Action launches Getting Started Keep In Touch (KIT) to help older people get online during COVID-19

Published 28/04/2020


Connect, Inform, Support

Age Action launches the Getting Started KIT Programme

Supporting Digital Literacy Skills Amongst Older People


(Tuesday 28 April) Getting Started Keep In Touch (KIT), a national learning initiative to help older people improve their digital literacy skills was launched today by Age Action, Ireland’s leading advocacy organisation for older people. The Age Action Getting Started KIT is a series of  NALA approved How To KIT Guides and a video tutorial presented by Mary Kennedy, to help older people to use a smartphone, or other device, to get online so they are more connected, informed and supported particularly those people over the age of 70 that have been asked to stay at home as part of the Covid-19 response measures.

Paddy Connolly, CEO of Age Action said ‘The digital divide is obvious during Covid-19 for all age groups but especially amongst older people because the majority of them are not online. The Age Action Getting Started KIT is designed to support older people to learn, use, and be confident about smartphones, other devices and applications and to help people to become Digital Champions as teachers of digital literacy skills. We know that improving digital literacy skills will help to combat social isolation amongst the older population, enable their participation in the digital economy and support them to access information online.’


People over the age of 70 are medically vulnerable during the Covid-19 pandemic and were asked to practice ‘cocooning’. More people are relying on digital media as a way to keep in touch with family and friends but it is estimated that only 3% of people over the age of 75 have the skills and access to the internet and over half of Irish people aged between 65 and 74 have never used the internet, locking them out of the benefits of being online. For people who are not online, television, radio and newspapers are a vital source of information and entertainment.


The Getting Started KIT will feature on Today with Maura and Dáithí on RTÉ One this Tuesday (28/04) at 4:10 when Pat Fitzpatrick will introduce one of Getting Started KIT videos to viewers. On Thursday (30/04) Today with Maura and Dáithí will air another tutorial with Pat Fitzpatrick outlining the campaign initiative. 


Mary Kennedy, television broadcaster who is lending her support to the Getting Started KIT by presenting the tutorials said ‘I was delighted to be asked to get involved. This will be a great help for people to keep in touch with family and friends in these difficult times. People will find it very easy to follow.’


Acknowledging the support of RTÉ who has come on board to broadcast digital literacy tutorials, Connolly said ‘television is a key source of information and entertainment for older people at this time and we are grateful to RTÉ who will broadcast the tutorials meaning as many older people as possible get a chance to learn. It is through initiatives like this that we see how public service broadcasting adds real value.’


The Getting Started KIT will also help people who have digital literacy skills to become Digital Champions as they can use the KIT to tutor someone who needs help.


‘We chose to support the development of the Getting Started KIT out of the Community Call Fund because digital skills are absolutely critical now for people to stay connected with their loved ones. We call on people across Ireland to register on ChangeX and get the inspiration and guidance needed to teach older people how to use their devices on a one-to-one basis via phone. This is something anyone with a little bit of time on their hands can do and it will have an impact far beyond this health crisis’ says Niamh McKenna, Head of Impact at ChangeX.


Age Action is calling for a Digital Allowance to support the Digital Inclusion of Older People and a Study on the Cost of Ageing in Budget 2021

(30 July 2020) 

Age Action, Ireland’s leading advocacy organisation on ageing and older people is calling for Budget 2021 to include a digital allowance in the form of a €2.50 increase to the Telephone Support Allowance and a broadening of the eligibility criteria to support older people to access digital technology.

Paddy Connolly, CEO Age Action said ‘Digital exclusion is a reality for at least 33% of people over the age of 65 with the associated cost being one of the barriers to access for older people. We know that communication costs have increased during COVID-19 as people became more reliant on digital communications as a means of communicating with family, health professionals, arranging essential services and addressing social isolation.  In the context of an increasing reliance on telehealth measures and public health advice, Age Action urges the Government to increase the Telephone Support Allowance, introduced in June 2018 at a weekly rate of €2.50, to €5 and for a broadening of the eligibility criteria which is narrowly confined to those getting the Living Alone Allowance who are also eligible for the Fuel Allowance.’

Government services now actively prefer transactions to be digital under a “Digital First”approach, encouraging people to carry out their tax returns, and apply to r enew their driving licences and passports online. The Public Service ICT Strategy prioritises the digitisation of ‘the main existing citizen and business transactional services across Public Services’. There is an increasing reliance on digital channels to provide information by both the public and private sector which undermines people’s ability to access information which was very evident during the height of the pandemic. In a recent CSO survey of households of those over 60 and not online, the second greatest challenge to people who said they needed access to broadband, after lack of digital skills, was the perceived prohibitive cost.

‘Older people are being left behind because they do not have adequate access or skills to engage with digital services or participate in the digital economy; providing a digital allowance as well as investing in one-to-one digital literacy training that meets the needs of older people, is critical to bridging the digital divide. The new National Digital Skills Strategy committed to under the Programme for Government will have budgetary implications; Budget 2021 should begin to support older people to keep up’ Connolly said.