Older adults are particularly susceptible to the dangers of mis- and disinformation in the online world, often due to their limited digital skills compared to younger generations. Recognizing this vulnerability, the Seniors United against Misinformation (SUM) project takes an innovative and creative approach by implementing peer-to-peer training to equip elderly individuals with the necessary tools to combat misinformation. This blog post sheds light on the unique strengths of Project SUM, including its train-the-trainers model and its focus on three distinct territories—Rovaniemi, Barcelona, and Bologna—to leverage cross-cultural learning. Additionally, we explore the scarcity of information and studies surrounding media literacy education specifically tailored for older adults, underscoring the importance of sharing our findings.
The SUM project recognizes the imperative need to bolster critical media literacy skills among Europe’s senior citizens. To gain insights into the implementation of such initiatives, the University of Lapland conducted extensive research to find out pedagogical practices that aimed to enhance seniors’ abilities to identify and combat mis- and disinformation. The outcome of this research effort is a comprehensive Benchmarking report.
The benchmarking research revealed that organizations specializing in fact-checking also play a crucial role in providing training and learning materials to older adults. Additionally, governmental, non-governmental, and adult education organizations contribute significantly to this effort. The pedagogical approaches employed by these practitioners varied widely. Some methods involved proactive training, equipping participants with skills to identify fake news through techniques like reverse image search and cross-checking. Reactive training, on the other hand, focused on correcting misinformation with factual evidence. A critical understanding of media systems was often fostered, and training initiatives took place through diverse platforms such as online courses, workshops, and telephone consultations.
While numerous methods have been employed across Europe to enhance seniors’ resilience against mis- and disinformation, one crucial aspect largely absent from the approaches mentioned in our report is peer-to-peer learning. Extensive academic research has consistently highlighted the effectiveness of peer-to-peer learning in promoting media literacy among older adults. Understanding this potential, Project SUM places a strong emphasis on fostering peer-to-peer interactions as an integral part of its training model.
It is worth noting that there is a significant lack of information and studies pertaining to media literacy education specifically designed for older adults. Typically, research in this field primarily focuses on educating younger generations. In recognition of this gap, Project SUM is committed to sharing its findings and contributing to the growing body of knowledge surrounding media literacy for seniors.
To delve deeper into the benchmarking research and explore the various approaches to empowering seniors against mis- and disinformation, you can access the full Benchmarking report here.