Exciting innovations to support older people with technology

G’day! I’m currently working with our amazing team at Good Things Foundation Australia and whilst I have been here I’ve been reflecting a lot on the opportunities that digital technologies and services offers to older people. Here is Australia we’re working with local partners right across the country to support older Australians to thrive online through the Be Connected programme.

Recently, Good Things Foundation launched two fantastic guides; one was designed to help older people use the internet and the other explains how to use games to teach tablet skills. These are amazing resources which I think will help so many older people enjoy a better quality of life by unlocking their digital potential. These guides are excellent and, after a few minutes reading, virtually anyone will be able to give an older person a helping hand on their journey into using the internet or tablets. We’re going to adapt these guides so that they will be contextualised for Network Partners in Australia too.

When thinking of older people who are benefitting from using the internet, it makes me think of Edith who we worked with for Get Online Week a few years ago. She’ll be 91 now and she went from having low digital skills, to being an emailing, Skyping, digitally included superwoman! She found that her newly acquired digital skills have helped her to be able to manage her health and doctor’s prescriptions and she identified that, as she gets older and gets less mobile, the more useful her newfound digital skills will be. You can hear Edith’s story here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8FxIKCAJ0yI

The new guide which explores how games can help older people learn how to use tablets is particularly ingenious, in my opinion, and I’m really excited to see the results that come from it. 52% of non-internet users aren’t online because they don’t see the need or because “being online is not for people like them”, and this is particularly the case amongst the 65+ demographic. Perhaps this attitude can be overcome through games. Using technology for the first time can be frightening, but making the learning process fun could overcome that. If people don’t want to “learn” about the internet, playing games doesn’t feel like learning. Yet, by playing the games, they’re learning how to use a touch screen, how to correct a mistake and that it’s fine to experiment. You can also begin to establish peer support if one of you has the tablet and the other knows how to play the game. I can’t wait to see the results from this guide being used.

Seeing the incredible work being done through the Be Connected program here in Australia has also made me reflect on the benefits of digital skills for older people. Since launching in 2017, we’ve built a growing network of over 2,200 community organisations who empower older Australians to thrive in an increasingly digital world. The network is diverse and covers everything from libraries to retirement villages, computer clubs to cultural groups and community centres to men’s sheds. In a short space of time, we’ve already supported over 100,000 people and counting.

I think the story that best typifies the amazing impact Be Connected can have is the story of Valerine and Lindsay Davis. Val’s Parkinson’s disease diagnosis kick-started her into taking digital literacy classes at Lockyer Community Centre and her husband Lindsay, who was the coordinator of the local Parkinson’s support group, and wanted to keep up. Val started with embracing social media so that they could reconnect with family members and to upload and manage her photos.  What brought this example to mind is that Val’s husband Lindsay uses his newfound digital skills not just to check the weather from the Bureau of Meteorology’s website, but to play games too. I wonder how many more people, like Lindsay, will develop their digital skills through games as well as using other digital tools and services.

The new guides are an excellent read for anyone wanting to show older people how to use the internet, and you don’t need to be a computer expert to do it – if you’re confident using the internet, then you already know enough.

The guide to helping older people use the internet is available here: https://www.onlinecentresnetwork.org/sites/default/files/a6_your_guide_to_helping_older_people_use_the_internet.pdf

And the guide to using games to teach tablet skills is available here: https://www.onlinecentresnetwork.org/sites/default/files/a6_your_guide_to_using_games.pdf

If you’re in the UK and you’d like a hard copy of either of these booklets, please email hello@goodthingsfoundation.org

And we will be adapting these for use in Australia in the next few months.

And if you’ve read this far, here’s an unrelated but lovely photo of some art painted on huge grain silos that I saw last weekend in regional Victoria, Australia. This one is in Brim, and was painted by Guido van Helten. Amazing. Enjoy!

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