Elders Tech Time Holds Dear to Us

Elders Tech Time holds a special place in our hearts – it’s not just about technology; it’s a journey of shared wisdom, stories, and laughter that fills everyone’s cup. While making technology accessible to the older generation is crucial, what truly sets this program apart is the meaningful connection it forges with our Elders.

We love sharing our Elders Tech Time story and if you haven’t heard about it before, let us give you a quick lowdown of the program:

Launched in 2019, Ursa’s Elders Tech Time began modestly, assisting Indigenous Elders with modern technology. Starting with smartphone photography lessons, it swiftly evolved into Elders using Zoom for language classes during the pandemic. This lifeline kept Victoria Native Friendship Centre (VNFC) Elders connected, showcasing Ursa’s commitment to breaking down tech barriers and enhancing life through accessible technology. Elders Tech Time isn’t just about technical expertise; it’s a cultural exchange, a profound connection where both Elders and the Ursa team learn.

Our team bi-weekly gathers at the VNFC, with Elders informed by the Indigenous Culture Team. VNFC generously provides their computer lab and culture rooms, along with computers for Elders without their own.

Approached by many curious minds about hosting a similar program, we’re proud of our team’s dedication and keen to see it grow. In this article, we’ll share insights on what works and how others, even non-Indigenous, can successfully host a Tech Time in their community. Plus, we’ve got insights from Matthew Davis, a Squamish local front-end developer, who has been hosting his own Tech Time at the Squamish Totem Hall.

Ursa developer making cedar with Elders.
One of Ursa's founders, Nigel Decontie, making cedar roses with our Urban Indigenous Elders.

Establish a Relationship First

Building relationships is key, especially with seniors or Indigenous Elders. Engagement before introducing the idea is vital. Our fruitful collaboration with the Victoria Native Friendship Centre benefited from past connections with Ursa Creative team members who had worked there. While working for an organization isn’t necessary, engaging with the community before proposing an Elders Tech Time is vital.

Simply make yourself present. Explore local First Nation bands, Friendship Centres, and community hubs. Friendship Centres often host open activities like soup lunches, drumming circles, and craft fairs. Network positively by participating in these activities, getting to know the community, and connecting with those working with Elders and seniors.

For Matthew, the connection was more direct. “I just took that first step. Walked into the Squamish Totem Hall, chatted with the reception, introduced myself, and said I wanted to dive into sharing what I know with the Elders. They pointed me toward the Elders’ lounge and connected me up with the community organizer. It’s all about taking action, immersing yourself in the community without hesitation.”

Matt’s warm reception led to a tech lunch and learn session in August and evolved into regular Tuesday Tech Time teachings for Elders in Squamish.

Web developer standing with Squamish Totem Hall.
Matthew Davis is a front end developer who has been hosting a similar program to our Elders Tech Time at the Squamish Totem Hall in Squamish, BC.

Helpful Patience

Elders Tech Time involves a generation not raised in today’s tech era. Sending an email or logging into a smartphone might seem complex. Patience, reassurance, and scenario-based problem-solving are crucial.

Matthew emphasizes, “You have to roll at their pace to get the reps in. Going slow and repeating processes is necessary. It helps users understand the flow and steps so they can reach their tech goals. One Elder knew he could use his iPad to speak to his granddaughter but needed practice on opening the iPad, getting to the FaceTime app, and launching a call.”

It’s always best to take momentary pauses and make sure the Elder you’re working with understands the help, tips, and tech tutorial. It’s helpful to even go back a few steps to reiterate the process if needed for a full understanding.

Teach and elder pointing at a computer screen
Ursa's CEO, Brendan Decontie, showing computer literacy skills to a local Elder.

Forgotten Passwords - A Common Endeavor

One common issue is forgotten passwords. Trying to log into someone’s account or device often hits a roadblock. If passwords can’t be remembered, creating new accounts and resetting devices to factory settings may be necessary. We mentor Elders on password security using password managers like LastPass, Google’s Password Manager, and Apple’s iCloud Keychain.

Preparing for forgotten password mentorship can save a lot of headaches. Some “light” tech users are not comfortable with password managers, and that’s okay! Elders might prefer to keep a physical journal with their passwords, as long as it’s kept to themselves and has a copy in a safe location.

Actively Listening

Elders Tech Time is more than tech solutions; it’s a unique journey of shared stories and conversations. While listening to the tech problems is the base of the session, there is more to it. Elders often share stories from their community, like the significance of first families, resiliency, and life lessons. When we’re there, paying attention and talking we are doing much more than helping Elders with tech -we are learning about culture. which is different from what we usually learn in school or our daily lives.

Matthew shares his experience, “Being from the Squamish area, I did not have as much of an understanding of the traditional lands I live on… by hosting a Tech Time, I’ve engaged with amazing stories from the Elders; it’s incredible. The richness of Squamish culture and local history, like the original 16 families – mind-blowing. I met this Elder with the nickname ‘Ma’; they shared so many stories that I’ve never felt more connected.”

Elder and Ursa working together on a laptop.
Elders Tech Time is a combination of shared teachings and tech help.

Be Able to Learn on the Fly

Even if you don’t have all the knowledge, don’t fret! This is the perfect opportunity to workshop problems collaboratively with the Elders. Even as tech experts, we sometimes need to look up solutions online. It’s common for us to use Google to problem-solve with iPhones and iOS devices, especially since much of our team doesn’t use Apple products.

While some Elders can Google their problems, the solution is not always direct. Tech Time is the right place to help them find the right answer. The internet is full of helpful solutions that can aid you, even if the Elders present a problem that you might not know the answer to.

Ursa and CI Developers helping an Elder on a computer.
We occasionally have other partners in the tech space join us for Tech Time. James Gatsi from CL Web Developers has joined us multiple times in delivering tech knowledge.

The Future of Elders Tech Time

As the program enters its 5th year, we don’t plan on slowing down our help for Elders. We continue to explore ways to increase technology accessibility for everyone. We want Elders Tech Time to grow, encouraging tech-savvy individuals to reach out to their Elder community and deliver a similar program.

Matthew is also looking into improving his Tech Time sessions by formalizing some of his knowledge. “I’ve been looking to transition to something more formal, like delivering a curriculum or training. But then again, it might not capture the organic vibe of what Tech Time is. Maybe a blend for future sessions. Or a way for someone to book a time, so I can fully dedicate myself to their tech problems.”

If you’re interested in hosting a Tech Time in your community, feel free to reach out to us and connect. We are happy to share stories and other resources that could help you run a successful Elders Tech Time. Our doors are always open.