Digital Disconnection and Aging with Addictions is a participatory action research project developed in collaboration with Groupe Harmonie (GH), a Montreal non-profit organization aimed at supporting older adults dealing with addictions to drugs and/or alcohol. GH uses harm reduction principles to provide support groups and other psychosocial services to older adults around the city.
We are working with GH to co-create promising practices for implementing remote services and training for digitally-disconnected older adults, in hopes of ensuring continued and remote access during the pandemic, during other disasters, or through bad weather and situations of reduced mobility. This work emerges from a pressing need in the community: GH’s work supporting older adults, many of whom are in situations of financial precarity and are socially isolated, was made more difficult during the COVID-19 pandemic.GH saw an increase in the demand for its services over the pandemic, as older adults became increasingly socially isolated and as addictions worsened or emerged among some of them. The pandemic also made it impossible to safely provide many of the in-person services offered by GH. As well, due to an enduring digital divide, many older adults did not have the ability to access programs virtually. Implementing remote services that can be used by the older clients of GH therefore represents an important challenge for the organization.