On the 2nd of July 2021, Patrick Penninckx, Head of the Information Society Department of the Council of Europe addressed participants of the European Seniors Union Summer Academy in Vienna. In his key note speech entitled “Digital society: challenges & opportunities”, the Council of Europe official described the main features of the new digital world and outlined the opportunities and risks for the elderly and the way their life is impacted. He also presented the Council of Europe policies for seniors and introduced dedicated media literacy initiatives.
The spread of the technological revolution provides increasing connectivity but also accentuates divides, technology allows more social control, social media replaces socialisation, fake news are spined online. Machines are getting smarter, people are always recognised, personal data are public and cybercrime proliferates. Seniors are often victims of these phenomena but can also be winners when properly supported.
The main areas of life were senior citizens need particular support include adapting housing, maintaining mobility, supporting socialisation, improving healthcare, supporting nursing care and facilitating access to public space. New technologies, such as self-driving cars, electronic skin, care robots and artificial intelligence applications have great potential to facilitate everyday life.
The Council of Europe policies towards elderly are centred on boosting inter-generational solidarity, promoting individualised support to older persons and their full inclusion in the community. One of the major tools in this respect is enhancing media and information literacy for all.
Specific media literacy projects such as the LEMON learning modules and the Internet Literacy handbook by the Council of Europe, the Irish EMAC project, the DIGITOL project of the European Commission, the Canadian CyberSeniors platform are examples of good practices that contribute to strengthening the digital citizenship of senior citizens.