Weekly drop›in clinics are connecting generations while providing digital literacy.

After identifying a gap in digital literacy for seniors, libraries nationwide decided to focus on digital inclusion last year.

Upper Clutha Libraries community engagement librarian Paula Mitchell said providing the drop›ins had been important, particularly due to Covid-19 limitations.

“Suddenly there’s been this huge leap in technology, and they’ve [seniors] been left behind. Bring on Covid and we’re not just missing out on digital knowledge. Digital is now connected with connection, and being able to text and communicate with family. It’s not just digital, it’s about senior wellbeing too,” Ms Mitchell said.

Ms Mitchell referred to one senior discovering video calling, and the ability to see a family member who had moved abroad.

“They video chatted for the first time, and it was so heart› warming,” Ms Mitchell said.

She acknowledged why understanding features such as video calling has been significant for Wanaka residents.

“For a lot of people living in Wanaka, they don’t have family in town. It’s a place some come to retire. What’s great [about this open digital forum] is it is a dedicated time where they come and don’t feel like they’re holding anyone up.”

Once she had launched the service, Ms Mitchell needed further support, and saw an opportunity to connect young and senior locals.

“I realised I couldn’t do it by myself, because it’s quite one›on›one, and every question is really unique. I connected with Mt Aspiring College and they run a students in the community programme,” she said.

The programme has students volunteering 20-50 hours across the year within the local area.

“They sent me some fantastic volunteers — they’re the cream of the crop. There’s about 13 final year students from Mt Aspiring College,” Ms Mitchell said.

Weekly volunteer Caitlin Bailey said as a regular at the library, she was drawn to help at the digital drop›in.

“I’ve always loved the library and reading and when I heard this was a thing, I just wanted to help more people and share knowledge that I think is simple with people who didn’t grow up with it and had a hard time grasping new technology,” Caitlin said.

The digital drop›ins are at the Wanaka Library every Thursday, 4-5:30pm and Lake Hawea Library every Tuesday, 11-12pm.