Gordon Palmer is passionate about helping seniors stay connected.
As the technology coordinator at the Collingwood Public Library, he works to do just that.
“I think digital literacy is such an important skill,” said Palmer, “and one that is necessary in the age we live in.”
Over the last two years, Palmer has witnessed firsthand the struggles people encounter when it comes to navigating technology — particularly seniors — and he is determined to help.
“A lot of things nowadays are more technology-based or virtual, and you can’t do some of the stuff in person that you used to be able to,” said Palmer.
He noted there are so many activities from banking and booking appointments to communicating with loved ones, even prior to the outbreak of COVID-19, that are done digitally. Palmer wants to make sure everyone is able to access those things online.
“I’m fortunate that I grew up with a lot of this stuff,” said Palmer, “but our seniors never did.”
Palmer started at the library on the public service deck six years ago. He has a library and information technician diploma, as well as a certificate in adult education, and he found his calling in helping patrons solve problems they were having with technology — especially seniors.
When the technology coordinator position became available, he jumped on it.
Palmer wanted to incorporate community outreach into the programming, so he started visiting retirement homes in Collingwood to teach technology to residents.
When COVID-19 hit, all of his programs were put on hold, but Palmer realized digital literacy was more important than ever. So he pivoted, and Tech Time with Gordon was born.
Every Thursday at 1 p.m. Palmer hosts a video on the Collingwood Public Library Facebook page that outlines the basics of various pieces of technology. Each class has a different theme, so viewers can attend one session or come for the whole series. His goal is to help adults build their skills and confidence in basic technology so they can access a variety of online services.
“By giving them these tools and skills, they can do so much more with it,” said Palmer.
Since he started the program, he has received messages from people sharing their gratitude, saying they can now talk to their grandchildren over Zoom, or that they have finally been able to access photos people have sent to them, among other things.
“It’s gratifying to see that they are learning something that so many of us take for granted,” said Palmer.
In addition to his online workshops, Palmer started offering one-on-one technology training sessions in person at the library. The sessions are appointment only and people can come ask Palmer any questions they have about technology.
Each session is 30 minutes, and Palmer encourages people to book as many sessions as they need.
“These sessions are great, because we can just kind of focus on the building blocks to get them comfortable with using different devices,” he said. “And hopefully with a few visits, they’ll be able to do everything they want with the devices they have.”
Palmer is also working with the library to build on digital literacy and include the digital arts. The Creator Space Mobile Digital Arts Lab will help people learn how to use technology for their creative passions as well.
In August, the Collingwood Library also received new technology which allows seniors to try virtual reality programs that will simulate world travel, museum visits, musical performances, or interactive games.
“It all comes down to enhancing digital literacy in the community,” said Palmer. “I like interacting with people in our community, and I am so satisfied when they walk away with new skills.”