A campaign is raising funds to expand a local social enterprise that digitally connects isolated older people through an evidence-based program.

Professor Helen Hasan from the University of Wollongong has investigated the use of digital technology by older people and found the mastery of everyday digital applications contributed to a senior’s social and emotional wellbeing.

Based on her findings, Professor Hasan has founded the not-for-profit social enterprise Living Connected, which includes a volunteer-run personalised home service that helps older people understand and use digital technologies.

Professor Helen Hasan

Living Connected, which is part of UOW’s business incubator program iAccelerate, is seeking start-up funding to expand its services to meet increasing demand, Professor Hasan said.

“With some seed funding we can put in place systems and people to help us grow and be sustainable,” Professor Hasan told Australian Ageing Agenda.

“For government and carers, the digital inclusion of seniors will mean a lower burden of care as older people can do things for themselves and have a better quality of life using a computer to engage and connect.”

All Living Connected services are evidence-based and include:

  • workshops to train volunteers
  • a free online course to train people such as family members to implement the program,
  • computer classes for aged care residents and
  • advice on the setting up computer kiosks in facilities.

Living Connected has helped about 50 seniors in the Illawarra region through the home service over several years, Professor Hasan said.

Without seed funding the initiative will remain a small local enterprise run by volunteers and its future would be uncertain, she said.

The service is crowdfunding for an initial $5,000 to enable it to set up on a more sustainable and systematic business.

“We are hoping that the publicity from the crowdfunding gets the attention from some bigger supporters. This is already happening with the NBN, which is very interested in our work,” Professor Hasan said.

She has also been contacted by people in Brisbane and Adelaide who are interested in starting a Living Connected service in their communities.

Longer term, Professor Hasan said they were hoping for $100,000 to $200,000 to develop systems and be able to trouble shoot client problems remotely.

“We also want to make sure that we can provide support for older people who cannot afford both the technical costs and our services but whose lives would be greatly enriched if they had a computer, internet access and the support from Living Connected.”

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  1. Prof Helen Hasan I think this is a fabulous idea. I hope it is supported and goes to a national level. Living in a rural area where social isolation and access to services for older people is a huge issue. I have worked as a volunteer Consumer Representative on projects with the Department of Health and Human Services and other organisations on Social Isolation of Older People, Healthy Ageing and issues faced by older people . I think our school kids could be involved as well. I think reconnecting our kids with older people and vice versa is so important to address some of the issues we will be faced with ageing population set to soar. We will need stronger and more resilient community bases. I was also on my sons school council. This small country school was constantly struggling for funding. I would love to see DHHS fund a program where grants were given to some of these schools for the kids to get involved. I have seen hundreds of dollars spent on a project and a fabulous toolkit developed that goes on a shelf. I am certainly not saying this kind of work or toolkit is not necessary either. I am saying a $1000 or $2000 grant would go a long way in these schools. We would also be participating in engagement and social connection which would also be a preventer of some mental health issues from social isolation. It means we would be promoting healthy ageing and “prevention is and can be more cost effective than treatment long term”.

  2. I wonder in her research if the professor investigated the long running program Broadband for Seniors, and go digi, and tech savy seniors, which have been funded by the Commonwealth Government for many years which achieves the same thing. Or if she is aware of the fact that the Government is advertising for a new program to replace the Broadband for Seniors program called the digital adult literary program?

    Her research has also not uncovered the fact that many libraries run free classes for groups but then people go looking for one on one training as they do not get the results in group training they need. There is no formula other than sitting down with the person and teaching and reteaching them in their own way until they can understand. Group learning just doesn’t work for most people. I’ve also been teaching older people computers since the early 1990s through many different community centres.

    It seems to me that had she investigated she would have found that this program is not revolutionary, original or new and has been going on for quite some time. Not take anything away from her but 100s of volunteers all over Australia have been teaching older adults to use technology for years. There are other universities who also have this idea and spend a lot of money of research when it’s not necessary.

    BFS teach one on one, on free computers and will teach the person whatever they want to know and can teach them on their own device. There are also programs where volunteers go to people’s homes and do the same thing.

    It’s a pity it’s not a mandatory piece of research to identify whats already available so research funds can go where they are really needed.

    Whilst on the surface this seems like a new, revolutionary idea, it is in fact far from new or revolutionary and it is simply recreating what already exists.

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