Mobile tablets will be handed out to 650 seniors across Australia to help them chat with volunteers, friends and family in a new program designed to combat loneliness.
The use of technology to reduce isolation in the lives of seniors isn’t new; community organisation Aurous has provided a Digital Community Visitors Service (DCVS), which connects seniors with friendly volunteers over video chat, for the past five years. In addition, it has offered a traditional community visiting program for over 20 years.
The easy-to-use tablets, which will be pre-loaded with bespoke software designed to make video chatting even easier, will allow owners to chat to a variety of volunteers as well as their loved ones, whenever they like.
The service is free, having been funded by the federal government’s $46 million Community Visitors Scheme (CVS).
To be eligible, seniors must receive a home care package in one of Aurous’s 54 designated regions; the program will target people predominantly in remote and regional areas.
Shirley, who has been using the DCVS for two years, hesitated when her home care worker asked if she’d like a device.
“I didn’t know anything about them”, she says, but now believes the tablet has greatly improved her life.
“My life wasn’t as full as it is now before the service. I lost my husband and I was all alone here. I would sit and not do too much because I am not able to get around on my own.
“My days were very empty, but now I look forward to talking on the tablet. I didn’t know how to manage a tablet, but now I use it to get my books from the library on my own.”
Minister for Senior Australians and Aged Care Ken Wyatt AM believes ageing “should put up no barriers to any person in our society”, and says the new technology helps to tear down those barriers.
“Addressing the social isolation experienced by too many older Australians is critical and, while there will never by a substitute for one-on-one, person-to-person contact, new technologies are opening up exciting prospects for the future of care,” he says.
Mr Wyatt has pledged a further $10 million to the CVS.
“Our government will also develop a Seniors Connected Program to address the silent battle of loneliness that thousands of older Australians live with every day.”
Aurous is also seeking volunteers who would like to be part of the program.
To find out more about the program or to make a referral visit www.aurous.org.au, call 1800 287 687 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.