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Learning patterns/Training senior citizens

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Training senior citizens
problemSenior citizens represent a large and ofter very educated part of our society, yet are underrepresented among Wikipedia editors and attempts to reach to them bring special challenges.
solutionA course which brings together IT-aware senior citizens can prove to be a success.
creatorVojtěch Dostál
created on11:48, 5 November 2014 (UTC)
status:in progress

What problem does this solve?


There are two sets of problems which we can solve by training senior citizens to use and write Wikipedia. The first set is directly related to Wikimedia movement, the second set is more general, yet still very important. It does partly go beyond the Mission statement of Wikimedia Foundation.

  • New editors – Wikipedia is a living entity in constant need of new editors. English Wikipedia has seen a decline in active editors in recent years. To counteract this problem, several initiatives have been started in many language versions of Wikipedia, including educational programs for university or high school students. However, students are a limited target group of potential Wikipedia editors and, moreover, usually stop editing Wikipedia as soon as they complete their tasks. Yet, there is a substantial pool of potential Wikipedia editors: senior citizens. These people are often well-educated and experienced, they long for meaningful activities and self-realization. Some of them may be willing to dedicate free time to a new activity, especially if they are about considering retirement or have just retired.
  • Diversity – Not only is the quantity of active editors an issue, but also the composition. Young men are overrepresented, whereas vice versa women and elder people are underrepresented. We can target both of these groups by training senior citizens because women are more active among the elderly.
  • Further education – In the matter of basic popularization of Wikipedia, senior citizens are an important group to focus on because many of them have not yet heard about Wikipedia at all or have very limited awareness. Even if not all of them will eventually become new editors, they will benefit as informed readers.

More general problems

  • Social contact and staying active – Meeting other people is a need which is important in every age. In modern society, loneliness is common among the elderly. Regular courses offer both virtual and real interaction. Moreover, at least in the Czech Republic, there are not many organized activities for male senior citizens and they are less active than women so it is important to offer activities suitable for each gender.
  • Sense of purpose – After retirement, people often seek out new activities and meanings and reevaluate their lives. They need fulfilling activity and want to feel useful.
  • Changing the way we view senior citizens – There are a lot of stereotypes about senior citizens. Some see them as a burden or only as receivers of our care. It is important to show that anyone of any age, can be a valuable part of society and – even in this digital era – can still teach us a lot.

What is the solution?


How to set up a course for senior citizens

  • Collaborate with preexisting institutions - senior centres, libraries, Third-Age universities. They already may have ways of contacting senior citizens.
  • Rent a PC room - there is no way you can teach Wikipedia theoretically, without people actually trying it out.
  • Advertise the course - large institutions, such as those mentioned above, often have newsletters with thousands of subscribers. These may be to your disposal. Advertising in real-life is also very efficient, such as during other lectures (at Third-Age universities at the end of their lectures). Interestingly, introducing our program on TV or in the papers is fairly inefficient, as is (unsurprisingly) leaving a stack of leaflets in a public place.
  • We had significant success with courses for librarians as a prerequisite to subsequent collaboration. We trained 45 regional librarians who gathered in the National Library, some of them then organized whole courses for their senior citizens, Wikipedia workshops, talks about Wikipedia or invited us to conferences. Libraries are metaphorical gates to senior citizens who are active, often well-educated and, increasingly, IT-aware.[1]

Things to consider


General concerns when leading a course

  • Speak slowly, repeat important things
  • Often ask if everyone understands (stress that they should not be afraid to tell you) and make sure that they really know what to do (often participants may not admit to that but will be happy for your assistance)
  • Thus, combining a "frontal" teaching (in front of the "class"), together with individual assistance, proves to be the most efficient teaching method.
  • Checking each participant's edits _during_ the class is usually impossible (even with something like the Education extension which makes things easier). Go through the edits after the class.
  • After the lesson ends, send every participant an e-mail summarizing what has been done during the class (and ask them to try something at home on their own). This improves the retention of your participants.

How the course is organized We usually give a full Wikipedia course in 6 2-hour classes:

  • 1st lecture - an overview of Wikipedia, its history, explaining how the community and the control mechanisms work. Incorporating motivational sentences explaining why it is important to edit Wikipedia.
    • At the end of this lecture, participants are asked to register. Bear in mind that registering takes a lot of time, often our participants struggle with picking a free (non-existent) username and may not understand the importance of the confirmation e-mail.
  • Before the 2nd lecture, we post a welcoming message to all participants ' user pages.
  • 2nd lecture - participants start by answering to our welcome message. A concept of "answering where the question was asked" is stressed. All edits are shown by the tutor, usually on a video projector, but participants are asked to choose their own words.
    • A possible problem this is that editing discussion pages has to be done in the old Wiki-markup system. As participants are then teached the new VisualEditor system, this is a bit of a drawback.
  • Further lectures slowly introduce the editing basics, progressing from own user pages towards the mainspace.

When to use


This learning pattern is based on the Senior Citizens Write Wikipedia program on Czech Wikipedia.


  • Older people are a treasure and those with basic computing skills would make wonderful Wikipedians! I am eager to see more outreach to them in our movement. Anna Koval (WMF) (talk) 00:23, 16 January 2015 (UTC)[reply]
  • I ran an editathon at the WWI musuem in Kansas City that involved mostly senior citizens. They were really receptive, and as the primary volunteer group for the museum, had a significant investment in researching the war. The Musuem is interested in continuing to support that group in developing the skills and definitely need the regularity that a multiweek course provides. Having a model for this kind of activity in the community is really valuable, and computer literate and research-oriented seniors and volunteers are certainly a powerful form of energy for the community. A couple valuable things I learned: with less-tech literate seniors, you need more hands on deck with a higher level of tech literacy (we had several Wikipedians and a museum staff member who were very valuable for our editathon). Sadads (talk) 15:54, 16 January 2015 (UTC)[reply]
  • This gives a very sound approach to running a series of events rather than one offs. Fabian Tompsett (WMUK) (talk) 10:33, 22 January 2015 (UTC)[reply]
  • This is a great set of advice, thank you Vojtech. I really like the idea of sending participants a list of what they have done during the lesson and that it seems to encourage people to keep editing. KHarold (WMF) (talk) 22:15, 9 February 2015 (UTC)[reply]
  • Great suggestions on how to work with senior citizens, very useful! FKoudijs (WMF) (talk) 23:59, 2 March 2015 (UTC)[reply]
  • Seelochnie Moonessar

What new how dol. visual basic for 04:26, 4 April 2015 (UTC)[reply]

  • Majority of Telugu Wikipedians are older people, means 55+ age group people. Example 1. N.R.Gullapalle, 2. JVKPrasad, 3. Palagiri Ramakrishna Reddy, 4. Rajasekhar, 5. T Sujatha 6. N. Rahamathulla 7. Ramaiah etc., Elderly people indeed give good fruit. Ahmed Nisar (talk) 12:44, 22 August 2015 (UTC)[reply]
  • This is very useful advice for anyone working with a group who have plenty of free time on their hands (i.e. even if they are not senior citizens). Thank you Vojtech for sharing your learnings:) Saintfevrier (talk) 06:36, 21 February 2016 (UTC)[reply]

See also

Education Toolkit Learning Pattern
This learning pattern is part of the Education Program Toolkit.
Go to the toolkit.