Jackie and Kevin using one of the library computers
Jackie Felsteed and Kevin Coombe at Bargoonga Nganjin Library, North Fitzroy.

The play on words in the title of their technology course for seniors perfectly describes the intergenerational values underpinning YouthNow’s “pass IT on” course. Although some days, the course could just as aptly be named – pass IT back – as some seniors share their IT knowledge with their 27-year-old trainer Amanda McDonald.

Sometimes they actually teach me, Amanda laughs. One woman showed me how to use the filters in Instagram – I didn’t even know Instagram had filters.

And that is what happens, says Amanda, when course participants start gaining confidence with technology, they start playing around on their smartphones and computers and get brave enough to discover new things.

Pass IT on is an initiative of YouthNow, a Learn Local in Sunshine. Through the Adult, Community and Further Education Board, the Victorian Government funds around 300 community-based Learn Locals across Victoria to deliver education and training programs.

YouthNow’s CEO Colleen Bergin says intergenerational knowledge sharing is what has made the course so popular. At first we thought it would be a one-way flow of passing on knowledge from young people to older, but we were delighted to see the knowledge flowing both ways, Colleen says.

The seniors just love it,” she says. “Many say their children or grandchildren don’t have the patience to show them how to use their smartphones.

Many tell us they appreciate the one-on-one style of the class as our young volunteers move around and show them how to use their smartphones, or how to Skype their grandchildren or use email.

Before she started attending the pass IT on program 18-months ago, Jane Ding, 68, didn’t know how to use a computer. Now, she says, her world has opened as she searches for recipes and gardening tips and reads the news – all translated to Chinese – on her computer.

My English isn’t very good and the teachers are so patient with me – showing me slowly. The teachers are very nice, I am so happy there, Jane says.