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Students from the UPC teach Information and Communications Technologies courses in the centres for the elderly of ”la Caixa” Foundation

Barcelona, 29 May 2002

The objective of the programme, within which new courses have started this May, is for students from the Universitat Politècnica de Catalunya (UPC) to teach the elderly some of what they know about computing and to have the centres for the elderly become a place for meeting and relationship between the generations.

Over 150 students of telecommunications engineering and computer engineering at the Universitat Politècnica de Catalunya (UPC) have given training courses in new information and communications technologies (ICT) to 5,000 people from Catalonia, between February and the end of June, within the framework of the Project for Introduction to the New Technologies and Internet for the Elderly. The initiative is being fostered by ”la Caixa” Foundation and the UPC’s Fundació Politècnica de Catalunya, and is being implemented in the centres for the elderly of ”la Caixa” Foundation, through agreements with government departments, all over Catalonia.

The Project for Introduction to the New Technologies and Internet for the Elderly, initiated in the month of February on the basis of an agreement between ”la Caixa” Foundation and the UPC’s Fundació Politècnica de Catalunya, has provided an opportunity for students from various departments and centres of the Universitat Politècnica to take part in a pioneering project to introduce the elderly to the world of computing and the Internet and to have people of different generations relate with each other in a creative and dynamic setting.

The computing courses, which started in February in 43 centres for the elderly in Barcelona, Tarragona, Lleida and Girona, will run through to the month of June and will be started again next September.

The students who have taken part in this programme worked alongside the computer-workshop volunteers of the “Club Estrella”, helping them to solve any doubts that arose for them.

The courses have provided an introduction for elderly persons to the new technologies and Internet in a progressive manner, ranging from basic concepts about getting to know how computers work and the use of the Word program to write texts, among other computer tools, through to use of e-mail. In fact, Internet and the use of e-mail and participation in chat-sessions have been the star themes of the courses, the ones which have aroused greatest interest among the elderly, excited at learning a new way of communicating instantly with far-away children and grandchildren.

Imagination and creativity have likewise been brought to bear through the implementation of projects –many of them based on poetry, letters, drawing and cooking recipes– which have provided some people with new possibilities for overcoming their literacy problems.

A good relationship between educators and students has reigned constantly throughout the courses taught so far, with personal dealings being one of the key features of training based on the different levels of computing knowledge possessed by the students. The high levels of attendance and satisfaction among students and teachers alike on these courses have meant that many wish to repeat the experience. The educators feel that the courses are very useful in helping the elderly to integrate in the present-day world, and the work the students have put in has been acknowledged by means of a diploma granted by Fundació Politècnica de Catalunya and ”la Caixa” Foundation.

At the same time, the UPC students who have acted as teachers have benefited from a learning experience which has enriched them both professionally and personally, and in some cases has even awakened in them a desire to devote themselves to technological teaching.

Fundació Politècnica de Catalunya has taken the responsibility of training the students who were to act as teachers and has allocated a tutor to each student to carry out teaching and methodology follow-up. FPC has also taken charge of developing the teaching materials for the courses.

Fundació Politècnica de Catalunya is an institution created by the UPC in 1994 to meet continuous-education needs in the technology and management spheres. Since its creation it has become consolidated as a nexus between the university and companies with a view to readying themselves for future transformations in our economic and social environment.

For ”la Caixa” Foundation this initiative reflects its constant commitment to social participation work, based on the principles of solidarity and personal development. One recent example of this commitment are the activities and seminars to promote the participation of the elderly in volunteer programmes which ”la Caixa” Foundation organised last year and in which over 14,000 people took part. Another example is the book Àngels anònims. Activitats de participació social de la gent gran (Anonymous Angels. Social Participation Activities for the Elderly), outlining a number of volunteer activities which have been promoted from the centres for the elderly of ”la Caixa” Foundation, both of its own creation and arising out of agreements with the various levels of government. These have involved more than 400 social volunteer activities (help for the disabled, for NGOs, for immigrants and for incapacitated persons), as well as cultural volunteer work (education, guided visits, salvaging of traditions, etc.) and volunteer work in new technologies.

”la Caixa” Foundation has been a pioneer in Spain in implementing a programme to introduce the elderly to the new technologies by organising computing courses at its centres for the elderly. Over this time, ”la Caixa” Foundation has installed at centres for the elderly throughout Spain: 121 computing rooms, 13 cyber-cafés and 148 media libraries; nearly 70,000 students have taken part in the “Club Estrella” workshops, the Internet space specially created by ”la Caixa” Foundation for the elderly.


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