A new program to help improve digital literacy skills for older Nunavummiut has been launched.
The Connected Elders and Youth program, by Pinnguaq, Connected Canadians and HelpAge Canada, is an intergenerational digital literacy program that pairs youth and elders. It's hoped the skills will help elders keep connected with friends and family digitally.
The program will be in the seven communities of the Kivalliq region, including Rankin Inlet, Arviat and Whale Cove, and the program has also expanded to Clyde River, which is in the territory's Baffin region.
Nicole Perry is the director of national programs with HelpAge Canada, an Ottawa-based nonprofit that is helping older persons live with dignity in Canada and around the world.
She said the program was created keeping in mind the increased isolation older northerners have experienced during lockdowns caused by the global pandemic over the past year and a half.
"When we think about what the rural and remote lifestyle means and think about isolation and loneliness … that's not new for people [in the North]," Perry said.
She said since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, however, there was a realization of the impact for older Canadians, particularly "how lonely and isolated they became during the pandemic and how technology can really help overcome that."
The learning modules have been prepared keeping in mind the unique way of life in the North and encompass Inuit Qaujimajatuqangit, the Inuit principles for societal values.
The materials are in both English and Inuktitut, and focus on building essential digital skills like navigating tablet settings and menus, searching on the internet, using applications and digital photography. Perry said the program is a way for young Nunavummiut to build meaningful connections and learn more about their culture from the elders in their communities.
"It's connecting across generations, connecting through knowledge-sharing, using technology as a focus for those conversations, connecting language," she said.
"When intergenerational relationships are enabled, both older and younger people feel cared for and valued."
According to Perry, the program will help the youth involved gain some work experience and learn essential employment skills as well.
"[Youth] will learn not only the technical skills necessary for the program, but best practices and approaches to helping older adult learners and general skills for the workforce," she said.
"Pinnguaq has a lot of connections to help connect the youth to employment opportunities afterward."
Talia Metuq, an Inuk artist and the community engagement and special projects coordinator at Pinnguaq Association, helped develop the logo for the program.
"Knowledge-sharing is an important way of Inuit life," Metuq said.
To reflect on that, she illustrated two silhouettes with matching traditional Inuit Baffin Island-style hair braids. She said it shows that "skills are shared between generations," in an email.
"Although orange is not widely used as a technology colour, for Connected Elders and Youth, the colour in the logo brings the warmth and friendliness of the program," Metuq added.
The Connected Elders and Youth program will take place from September 2021 to March 2022. It is currently recruiting 22 youth in the Kivalliq communities for a paid internship. Elders are encouraged to register for the program which will be delivered on a weekly schedule in a group setting.
As part of the custom education program, 250 tablets with accompanying data plans are provided to program participants and employees. Upon program completion, graduates will also enter a draw to be able to keep a tablet.