Transforming lives through digital literacy.


“I bought a tablet about two years ago. … Prior to that, I wasn’t able to fully enjoy TV and radio because I am hard of hearing, so I would learn about the news long after it took place. I live alone in my apartment, but after acquiring the iPad, I was presented an opportunity to communicate with people through Hangout, email, and Skype. I could also find Russian-language YouTube videos and newspapers.”

This is an excerpt from Anna’s story. She is one of nine older adults who shared their stories about becoming digital citizens late in life as part of an academic action-research photography project, which explores the social and economic concerns of communities that may affect health and wellness. The photos and the participants’ accompanying stories of digital inclusion form a powerful new exhibit at the San Francisco Public Library that invites viewers to share the experience of older adults and understand how computer use has positively affected the seniors’ lives.

The upcoming exhibit, entitled Life Got Wider: Meanings Associated with the Computer Use of Older Adults, will be displayed in the lower level of the Main Library in San Francisco from May 8 to August 10. It will open during Digital Inclusion Week (May 8–13, 2017) and will run through July 2017. It is sponsored by a San José State University professor’s sabbatical, the California Foundation of Occupational Therapy, and Community Technology Network (CTN).

The exhibit is part of a photovoice research project conducted by Associate Professor Lynne Andonian in the Department of Occupational Therapy at San José State University. Photovoice research (or participatory photography research), a research methodology employed since the early 1990s, asks participants to take pictures that represent their point of view on issues or that highlight the view of the communities in which they live.

The nine older adults, including immigrants and low-income seniors, were asked to take photos to describe how using computers has affected their lives, their occupations, and their everyday activities. They talk about the role a computer plays in reducing their isolation and expanding their universe. “If I learn more, I feel better,” says Mikael, one of the photographers. Another participant, Nickolay, explains how the internet helps him find cake recipes and information about taking care of his cat, and Lyudmila tells us her 92-year-old mother is just as keen to learn how to use the computer as she is.

These are the kinds of stories CTN loves to collect because they give human faces to the work we do, which can sometimes get overwhelmed by statistics. So we hope you’ll drop by the Main Library to catch the exhibit the next time you’re in downtown San Francisco and let us know what you think!

“Life Got Wider”: New Photo Exhibit Explores the Online Lives of Seniors

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Kami Griffiths