National digital skills program links residents with students 

The eSafety Commissioner has launched a new free program that aims to improve older people’s digital skills by pairing them with teenage mentors. 

Aged care homes can sign up to a new free program that aims to improve older people’s digital skills by pairing them with teenage mentors. 

The six-week Young Mentors program brings teenagers together with older Australians to share digital skills and knowledge and help them gain the confidence they need to navigate the online world. In return the student mentors develop teaching and leadership skills through the weekly one-hour sessions that focus specifically on the needs of the older learners.  

It is the latest offering in the Be Connected program, which is the Australian Government initiative that aims to empower older Australians to access digital technology and online services.  

Any organisation with a connection to older Australians, or young people, and looking to build the skills of their community is encouraged to register for the free program. In aged care, for example, the program can help lifestyle managers connect with a local school to help build residents’ confidence in technology and independence in a fun and relaxed setting.

Louise Molyneux, who took part in the pilot program while enrichment technology advisor at West Australian residential aged care provider Amana Living, said she got involved because she saw that residents needed to learn technology. 

“A lot of residents are handed down devices or given phones with family that don’t have the time to teach them. And then they’re stuck with it and they feel incompetent. By working with a stranger, you then don’t feel so exposed,” Ms Molyneux said in this video case study.

“The students need somebody to teach our residents, the older Australians need somebody to teach them. And the benefit of having the eSafety Commissioner involved is that they have a host of really well thought out, really clear learning material that we can take advantage of.”

Pilot participants of the Be Connected Young Mentors program

Ms Molyneux said the registration and implementation of the program was straightforward with all the materials readily available. “Most of our residents come with a list of questions, but if they ever run out or if they ever hesitate, our students can then draw on all the material from Be Connected to keep going.”

People of all ages taking part in the pilot reported increased social connection and understanding across generations, said eSafety Commissioner Julie Inman Grant.

Julie Inman Grant

“For those of us who use digital technology as an essential part of our daily lives, we may not realise how novel it can be to older people who have lived much of their lives without it,” Ms Inman Grant said.

“It’s difficult for anyone to stay on top of the continually evolving digital landscape as new technologies emerge. Ensuring we don’t leave older Australians behind as society continues to move online is essential.” 

For older Australians, the program aims to build confidence in using digital technology to help create a greater sense of independence, provide greater access to services and reduce feelings of loneliness and isolation.  

Ms Molyneux said a lot of the benefits were not tangible. “Yes, people leave better able to use their phone, better able to use their device, but they also leave having built friendships, having gained confidence, and really just having had a good time.”

She recommends aged care organisation and schools sign up “because there are benefits that you can’t predict. There is happiness and joy and confidence that you won’t know you’re going to see until you see it.”

See Young Mentors in action in eSafety’s pilot promotional video and see other video case studies, register and access more information at the Young Mentors program webpage.  

Main image: Pilot participants of the Be Connected Young Mentors program

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Tags: amana-living, be connected, Julie Inman Grant, office-of-esafety-commissioner,

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