Research showing that elderly people are more likely to believe and share ‘fake news’ than their
younger counterparts 1 is behind a trans-European project that aims to develop and deliver media
literacy training to seniors in rural areas.
Media Literacy Ireland member EurAV is one of four non-profit organisations, based in Ireland, Italy,
Slovakia and North Macedonia that met in January 2022, in Sicily to launch the two-year project.
“Any young person using filters on their smartphone apps is well aware that a pictures and videos
can be doctored and faked,” explained Declan Cassidy, who is one of the EurAV project team, “but
elderly people are digital immigrants, and many of them – especially those in rural areas – are
challenged by the pace of digital change in their daily lives. When you think about it, electricity only
came to places like Ballycroy in Mayo in the mid-60s, so if you are a 75-year-old today, you’d have
been a teenager before you had electricity. The world of ‘deep fakes’, Photoshop and Twitter might
well be perplexing for somebody like this.”
The project, ‘DiSeRA’ (Disinformation of Seniors in Rural Areas), is funded under the EU’s Erasmus
“Most people know Erasmus Plus as a funding source for student exchanges in schools,” said Declan,
“but there’s a section of it that supports organisations across Europe working together in the area of
education and training – whether that be with youth, adults, in schools or in vocational and
educational training. The fund is managed in each country by a national agency which, in Ireland’s
case, is Leargas. While we could achieve a certain amount as volunteers, this kind of support really
increases the scale and quality of what we can do, and, crucially, it enables us to network with like-
minded organisations in other countries so that we can collaborate and share what we learn.
Afterall, we’re all facing the same challenges in this space.”
EurAV (Eurav European Audio Visual CLG), is a non-profit company that grew from a collective of
media and creative professionals with a community media ethos who wanted to pool their expertise
for social ends.
“We’d registered the name in 2010 and were working as a voluntary group,” explained Declan, “but,
witnessing the misinformation and disinformation that surrounded pivotal events such as BREXIT
and the US Presidential Elections of 2016, we decided that we needed to do something more, so we
set up the company at the start of 2020.”
Declan is a multi-award-winning film maker whose Irish Film Board short, “Whatever Turns You On”,
qualified for Oscar consideration in 2010. His skills in short film making have become increasingly
relevant in a world of social media influencers and video clips.
“One of the challenges that EurAV – or, indeed, any organisation trying to promote media literacy –
has, is reaching through the digital noise across social media platforms to engage their users. We’ve
found that it takes different strategies for different demographics,” he explained. “The Gen Z
TikTokkers, for example, are more likely to engage with a person than with an organisation. If we
posted a TikTok as EurAV, we’d be lucky to get a hundred views. So, instead, I set up a personal
account that has 16,000 followers and gets millions of views. In contrast, TikTok is simply not going
to work for elderly people. That’s where the DiSeRA project comes in.”
As part of the project, EurAV will be bringing five elderly people to North Macedonia to join
counterparts from Slovakia and Italy at a media literacy training workshop.
“With older people, word of mouth is still the most powerful form of communication 2 ,” explained
Declan. “The people that we bring from Ireland will, we hope, act as ambassadors for media literacy
in their communities when they return.”
While EurAV has a website at https://eurav.com, it is through its Facebook page –
https://www.facebook.com/EurAV – that it posts updates on its activities and projects.
Pic caption: Moira, Sophia and Declan – the EurAV team – meet with Angelo Tudisca, the
Vice Mayor of Tusa, at the Tusa Civic Offices.