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Seniors crave digital connection, study finds


Seniors are enthusiastic to embrace technology but continue to be excluded from the digital wave, a report has found.

Richard Scenna

The Digital Paradox for Seniors Report, which includes research from over 600 seniors, shows that with guidance, seniors eagerly embrace technology and don’t want to be left behind.

But the report, conducted by technology educator YourLink with the support of business management consultancy PwC, also revealed that service providers and the community as whole often exclude them from the digital experience.

Richard Scenna, co-founder of YourLink, believes the elder members of society are being let down.

“The community has put seniors in the box of ‘they don’t understand technology so they won’t be able to grasp it’,” he told Community Care Review.

“Support networks are structured in a way that aren’t conducive to helping seniors tap into them. Eighty per cent of the report’s respondents relied on friends and family, and that help is often unavailable because those people are too busy or live too far way.”

Fixing, not teaching

When that support is provided, Mr Scenna says, it’s often about fixing, not teaching.

“From a young age we’re taught about independence, but when people get older, we assume that they’re no longer allowed to be independent.”

YourLink hosts Tea and Technology events in community centres such as bowling clubs around Australia. They are three-hour, hands-on seminars designed to give seniors confidence with smart devices, digital programs and apps. People are encouraged to bring their own devices and ask questions.

When they are introduced to the technology, they are curious and engaged. They are also frustrated by the assumptions made about them and their readiness, or lack of, to participate – Richard Scenna

Some seniors accept that technology has become a practical part of daily life and they must get on board, Mr Scenna says. Others are excited by the possibilities.

“This is a generation that remembers the huge expense and co-ordination of making overseas phone calls. So for them, video calling is eye-opening, and they’re excited by that.”

For seniors to be more included in the digital world, various parts of the aged care ‘ecosystem’ have to stand up and make that happen, Mr Scenna says. These include family and friends, retailers, service providers, community care organisations, as well as the community as a whole.

“It’s about creating learning opportunities tailored to seniors,” said Mr Scenna. “When they are introduced to the technology, they are curious and engaged. They are also frustrated by the assumptions made about them and their readiness, or lack of, to participate.”

Digital facing strategies

Mr Scenna encourages organisations to use digital facing strategies for their seniors. These could be digital programs that deliver communications and services, for example. It’s also crucial to train community care and aged care staff to offer digital support, he said, which will also allow the provider to differentiate in a competitive market.

When it comes to personal care, digital inclusion may be as simple as helping an older person to take a photo to send to their daughter in another state, assisting them to make a video call, or helping them understand online banking or their online government services account.

“It’s about integrating little moments of exposure to technology,” says Mr Scenna.

“Teaching seniors about technology is not always a quick process,” he added. “But it’s still fruitful.”

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2 Responses to Seniors crave digital connection, study finds

  1. Caroline December 11, 2019 at 12:36 pm #

    Oh so right… digital exposure for older people is possible if providers and support staff step outside their role and assist people to make the digital leap, in any possible way. Instead, we get hung up on ‘activities of daily living’ and pigeon hole activities. As a care worker starting out in 2001, it was exciting to not do house cleaning but help an older adult to send emails, edit a piece of writing on a computer, etc.

    There are lots of options for digital learning but older adults also need support to retain skills through and after a learning experience.

  2. Deb Neyle January 30, 2020 at 4:54 pm #

    A network of clubs that let seniors have courses in using all sorts of technology in lots of different ways exists. These courses are always taught by seniors. They are under the auspices of the Association of senior computer clubs Australia (ASCCA) and are often called Computer Pals (or something age related Eg Silver Surfers.
    These clubs trainers are very supportive and patient. ASCCA has a website with links to all clubs.

    Agree wholeheartedly with needs for regular practice to develop/maintain skills

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