Make internet access mandatory

Internet access is a must for all aged care facilities, an information and communications technology expert has said.

Aged care facilities throughout the country should make the move into the digital age, providing greater internet access for residents as a right and not a privilege.

Information and communications technology expert, Dr John Murnane, has issued this call out to the sector in the hope that internet access will become a mandatory requirement for all aged care facilities.

The University of Melbourne lecturer believes that in this day and age, facilities should not simply wait for residents to demand internet access.

“Internet access provides an important opportunity for mental stimulation, which is closely tied to older people’s health,” said Dr Murnane.

“It is also a liberating outlet for those confined to a single building on a day-to-day basis. Everyone living in retirement facilities deserves to experience these benefits.”

The Aged Care Australia website states that only 16 out of 772 retirement facilities within a 300 kilometre radius of Melbourne offer internet or computer access to residents. This figure, Dr Murnane said, is definitely too low.

“The way we talk about the internet, for example by referring to digital natives and immigrants, helps to build a culture of fear among the non-computer literate.

“We need to stop thinking about the internet as the preserve of the young; indeed, the way the worldwide web enables us to explore, learn and communicate might have been especially designed for the elderly or disabled.”

Research conducted by Dr Murnane in a Melbourne-based low-care hostel showed that, despite the challenges, older people can learn to use computers and access email, and derive huge benefits from doing so.

“The residents I work with are all over the age of 85. I’ve been working with them since 2007, and now many of them can use email by themselves.

“The oldest participant, who is 99, is currently learning to Skype, to keep in touch with relatives in France.

“Email is the most popular activity among our participants, with its ability to send photographs particularly valued. However, some participants are also developing an interest in researching family histories online, and the group has a growing Facebook presence.”

Aged care facilities, Dr Murnane said, will also face increasing pressure to introduce the internet in the next five to 10 years, as a growing number of computer-literate residents move in.

“Although making internet access available can be costly and resource-intensive for aged care facilities, I believe the benefits certainly outweigh the costs.”

Tags: aged-care, dr-john-murnane, university-of-melbourne,

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