A high percentage of older Nova Scotians have difficulty reading and writing, yet few attend upgrading programs. Older adults with poor reading, writing and math skills find it hard to understand basic information on such topics as nutrition, health, automated banking, computers and legal and financial matters. Many have trouble completing forms, filling out cheques and shopping. Studies show that when older adults improve their basic learning skills, they feel more independent, maintain their health, are less intimidated by the health system and feel more at ease with basic technology.
In 2004, the National Literacy Secretariat provided funding to the Department of Seniors to work in collaboration with the Department of Education, Skills and Learning Branch, to coordinate a literacy project in a number of communities throughout Nova Scotia. Seniors’ organizations partnered with community-based learning networks to test a new resource kit for seniors entitled "Enhancing the Basic Learning of Older Nova Scotians". The kit contained a binder of resource materials specifically for seniors. The project demonstrated how well community partnerships work in the delivery of upgrading programs for older learners.
In 2005, wanting to build on this success, the Department of Education and the Department of Seniors, initiated the Seniors' Literacy and Learning Grants. The goal of the grants was to continue to foster partnerships between seniors' organizations and community-based learning organizations in the delivery of specially tailored, senior-friendly, literacy and learning programs.
The Seniors' Literacy and Learning Partnership Award was created in 2007 to recognize exemplary partnerships between learning networks and seniors' councils or other seniors' organizations in the provision of upgrading programs to older learners in Nova Scotia.