Grandkids, neighbours urged to offer digital help to elderly

Families, neighbours urged to help elderly connect during coronavirus crisis


Neighbours, family and friends can offer vital digital support to older people during coronavirus pandemic.


Neighbours, family and friends are being urged to offer vital digital support to older people during the coronavirus pandemic.

As many seniors face weeks of self-isolation or social distancing as the country attempts to deal with the coronavirus crisis, digital-savvy Aussies are being reminded to help older people connect with video apps, use social media, access telehealth and do their online shopping.

The South Australian-based Global Centre for Modern Ageing (GCMA) said there are many things we can all do to help our elders.

"During this unprecedented time, many people may feel confined to their homes," said GCMA chief executive Julianne Parkinson.

"However, greater isolation does not necessarily need to lead to loneliness, people do not need to be disconnected from the world. We know increasing numbers of people are using technologies to socialise, connect, learn, and in many cases, work or run a business.

"For those who aren't, we urge the digitally confident to offer support in getting their friends, family and neighbours online - or helping them to use online technologies they may not be familiar with."

Ms Parkinson said people who do not feel comfortable continuing with their usual activities - or who may need to stay at home if unwell - could still connect online.

"The weekly catch up at the local café can be replaced with an online video chat using one of the many readily available platforms such as WhatsApp or FaceTime, some medical appointments can be conducted using telehealth and people can also learn new skills through online learning if they are enabled," Ms Parkinson said.

She added people who would like to use technology to a greater extent but need some guidance should also feel comfortable and not embarrassed asking for help.

Many older people already own digital devices but are not necessarily using them to their full potential, recent studies show.

A 2016-17 Deloitte survey of Australian consumers found 78 per cent of people aged 65-75 owned a smartphone, along with 82 per cent of those aged 55-64.

However, a recent study by RMIT University's School of Economics, Finance and Marketing, and University of Third Age (U3A) found that while older people have high levels of digital device ownership, they only have "moderate" levels of confidence in using the devices.

Ms Parkinson said technology can help provide access to services and connection to loved ones "which can help to preserve their wellbeing during this challenging and uncertain time".

Located at South Australia's Tonsley Innovation District, the GCMA also operates LifeLab - a leading, real-time test facility that allows businesses and research partners to invent and trial products and services for older people in a simulated 'real-life' environment.

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