How to offer digital support

Neighbours, friends and work colleagues should take the time to reach out and offer older people support in using digital technologies such as video calls, telehealth and online shopping during the coronavirus pandemic.

The Global Centre for Modern Ageing (GCMA) said it was important to work together during this difficult time.

“During this unprecedented time, many people may feel confined to their homes,” said the GCMA chief executive officer 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 that people who would like to use technology more 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 found that while older people have high levels of digital device ownership, they have only moderate levels of confidence in using the devices.

Are you confident you can manage online, if you are forced to isolate yourself inside? Have you tried to teach others?

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Written by Ben

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