Above: CEO of Benetas, Sandra Hills
University of Melbourne researchers are set to investigate whether technology can actually alleviate social isolation in the older population, having recently received news of Australian Research Council (ARC) funding towards the cause worth $195,000.
The ARC Linkage Grant will enable the university to team up with aged care provider, Benetas, to explore exactly how novel technologies can prevent and alleviate social isolation in older adults, over a three-year time frame.
The joint Growing Older and Staying Connected project will involve up to 20 Benetas clients who live in their own homes and are recipients of Community Aged Care Packages.
The clients will be given a touch-screen tablet with internet connection. Over an 18-month period researchers will evaluate if clients’ use of the technology alleviates social isolation.
Senior lecturer in the Department of Computing and Information Systems at the University of Melbourne, Dr Frank Vetere, said the project aims to shed a new light on the practical benefits of technology to address social isolation.
“We are delighted to be working with older people, to empower them to use new technologies and to improve their social connectedness with the community,” Dr Vetere said.
In addition to the grant, Benetas plans to contribute an extra $20,000 per year towards the project.
Benetas CEO, Sandra Hills, said she is also excited about the organisation’s involvement , given the increasing role that technology is expected to play in the future of aged and community care service delivery.
“Despite the increasing use of technologies in every part of our community, not a great deal has been designed or created in the technology arena specific for older people to adequately deal with social isolation,” Ms Hills said.
“This exciting project will inform us of better ways to assist older people to stay connected to their community through the use of technology. Benetas welcomes this vital [ARC] funding.”