For over 86% of Australians, accessing the internet to work, shop, catch up on news or talk to friends is not only second nature; it’s an integral part of daily life.
But in our hyper-connected world of smartphones and social media, it’s easy to forget that many older Australians are less connected than ever to the day-to-day conversations and activity happening online.
While increasing numbers of older adults are embracing the digital life (research conducted by the Australian Communications and Media Authority in 2017 showed that 71% of older Australians accessed the internet in the three months to June 2015), for many others, taking on technology feels unsafe, full of barriers and frightening.
In some cases, falling behind on the skills and knowledge that are integral to modern society leads to people feeling disconnected, low mental stimulation, a loss of confidence and independence, loneliness and even depression.
With your help, technology can be as valuable for older generations as it is for us. Here are our top tips to share with your older loved ones, to help them engage with the world available to them online.
Think social media is the exclusive domain of the younger generation? Think again. Facebook has revolutionised the way families connect. It makes it easy to keep up with what’s going on in the lives of friends and family and makes for more frequent and casual communication between generations. More older adults are opting to live at home for as long as possible, so social media can enable them to maintain and form new social connections, as well as serve as a useful portal to learn about services available to them.
Embrace the Hashtag
No matter what your age, learning is the key to maintaining an active, stimulated mind. Social media can get a bad rap at times, but there’s no denying it’s a brilliant learning tool. Whatever your friend or family member’s interest is — from cooking or sport, to news or even health concerns — show them how simply putting a hashtag in front of it will produce thousands of articles to read, groups to join, videos to watch and so much more.
Take a Tech Savvy Course
Tech Savvy Seniors’ ‘Introduction to Technology’ course is an initiative for the Seniors Recreation Council of WA, which aims to gently introduce older Australians to the benefits of modern technology. Keith, who runs the free course from Silver Chain’s Fremantle Social Centre, says many older adults are terrified of technology because they’ve never been properly shown how to use it.
“More and more organisations have an online presence and seniors are being made to use that technology, though the help to transition them isn’t there,” Keith says. “We want to break that barrier and help them grow in a digital world.”
Shopping Delivered to Your Door
If injury or illness is keeping a person housebound, whether temporarily or long-term, having to rely on family or friends for grocery shopping can be a huge barrier to their independence. When you can buy just about anything without having to step outside your door, gaining the skills to shop online will not only make their life easier, it will hand them back some valuable freedom and control to manage an everyday task for themselves, and avoid feeling like a burden on others.
Be entertained anytime, anywhere
Podcasts are a great way to keep your brain sharp and learning, to spark up a dull moment or to stay updated on the things you care about. With the familiarity of radio but the modern benefit of being able to listen anytime, anywhere; podcasts have a lot to offer the older generation and are something many older people may not have yet discovered. There are hundreds of thousands of podcasts out there, from captivating stories and philosophy, to news, self-improvement and even podcasts to help you sleep!
Sign up to Skype
Skype is an app that allows for voice and video calls online, using a smartphone, iPad or personal computer. Especially beneficial for families or friends who live apart from one another, Skype offers grandparents the opportunity to watch and hear their grandkids in real-time, or for friends to catch up, through an experience that feels like you're in the room together. Making calls with Skype is relatively easy, and when loved ones seem so close you can reach out and touch them, the connection it provides is priceless.
We can’t overstate the importance of feeling like an important and valued member of society, particularly for older adults living at home on their own. Helping older loved ones realise their online potential can make the world of difference to their wellbeing, quality of life and ability to remain living at home for as long as they choose.
If you or someone close to you could benefit from social support or a Tech Savvy Seniors ‘Introduction to Technology’ course, please call the Silver Chain Care Team on (08) 9242 0119.