Seniors cover new digital ground

One of the challenges of physical distancing for older Australians has been how to stay in touch with family, friends and their communities.

Video calling can profoundly reduce the feeling of isolation but for many older Australians it can be a challenge. However, large numbers of seniors are going the extra mile to find out how to catch up ‘face to face’.

Between February to May 2020, 17 per cent of all the learning modules completed by seniors on eSafety’s Be Connected website were about making video calls.

The easy-to-understand modules guide people through video calling apps such as Skype, FaceTime and WhatsApp.

To further assist, eSafety has published new advice on its website, featuring tips and a How-To video from eSafety commissioner Julie Inman Grant.

“It is so vital now for seniors to be able to connect in this way – and family and friends have a key role to play in teaching them how,” she said.

“It will mean they can share a virtual coffee with family or consult with their GP. Video calling is a really powerful tool for people to feel like they’re still part of the family.”

The eSafety commissioner is encouraging all Australians to support their loved ones with the technology.

“Whether it’s showing them the website or helping them download one of the apps, taking time to introduce video calling can transform daily life,” she said.

Coralie Thompson, aged 70, said she has been using video calls three times more than usual since social distancing measures took effect.

“It’s the closest you can get to somebody without actually being with them,” she said. “It’s about being together even when you’re apart.

“The biggest benefit is being able to see my granddaughter. I take her on a tour of the house and show her what’s new in my garden, what I’ve been cooking and the cat. She loves it.”

Video calling is the online task that older Australians are the least likely to be able to do, according to eSafety research.

Only 30 per cent of those with low digital literacy are able to make video calls compared with 72 per cent being able to send emails.

Among those with high digital literacy, 89 per cent can take and send a photo on their smartphone compared with 76 per cent being able to make video calls.

Be Connected is an Australian government initiative committed to improving the online confidence, skills and safety of seniors, with the website content created and managed by eSafety.

Have you been making video calls during this time of physical distancing?

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Written by Ben Hocking

Ben Hocking is a skilled writer and editor with interests and expertise in politics, government, Centrelink, finance, health, retirement income, superannuation, Wordle and sports.

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