Keeping seniors connected as more health services go online

As Australians are increasingly asked to access basic services through technology, 60 per cent are now using the internet more than five times a day and Suncare Community Services is determined to not let the seniors’ community fall behind.

The program, Suncare Digital, has been funded by the Australian Government’s ‘Commonwealth Home Support Programme‘ and is aimed at keeping seniors connected digitally – teaching them new technical skills and delivering them an iPad to access the internet.

Suncare Community Services Chief Executive, Russell Mason, expressed that even before Australia was asked to stay at home due to the COVID-19 pandemic, many of their seniors were experiencing isolation and feeling disconnected from their family, their medical professionals and their community.

“This program is designed to reach out to clients who are not confident in this digital space or haven’t had these resources available to them and allow them to access daily health monitoring, participate in health and wellbeing programs and keep connected socially,” said Mr Mason.

A recent report from National Seniors Australia, ‘The Senior Surfers Research Report 2019’ states that there are clear benefits of internet access for seniors to alleviate risks in late life such as loneliness, isolation and less mobility.

“Increasingly our clients are being asked to access services through technology and so this program allows them to have an email address, link to government sites including My Aged Care, carry out online banking and monitor their health through telehealth and apps such as The Diary and Calm.”

Participant, 66-year-old Joy Alexander said that the program has made her feel empowered and she has been enjoying her new-found digital confidence.

“This program has changed my life! I was always really keen to learn but I had no idea what questions to ask and didn’t want to be embarrassed with my lack of understanding.” 

“I had never used an iPad before but by having someone available to guide me through and give me the lessons, I am now Face Timing my family and online shopping,” said Ms Alexander.

“My favourite part would be how easy it is to see my grandkids now and we have so much fun talking about our day – what they have been doing at school and hearing them read.”

“I also have apps on the iPad where I can check my blood pressure, do some exercise or just read the newspaper online.”

Activities Co-ordinators, Krista Flick and Liam Brix, has been working with a number of Suncare customers in May, and whilst COVID-19 has meant Suncare were not able to do their original in-person workshops as part of the delivery of Suncare Digital, they have put everyone’s new skills to the test as social distancing is enforced.

“Many of our customers would much prefer face-to-face interaction, but as people learn how to use the devices they can see how many opportunities there are to have an increased connection with people through these new platforms,” said Ms Flick.

“We have developed Quick Start Guides and step-by-step activities that everyone can start with and when we are able to conduct some peer group workshops we will be encouraging everyone to connect digitally and learn from each other.”

This article was originally published on the Suncare website on 10/6/2020.