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One simple piece of technology can keep seniors connected during isolation

May 18, 2020 Coronavirus (Covid-19) No Comments Email Email

As COVID-19 continues to keep many seniors in isolation, a CQUniversity researcher says one key piece of technology will help them keep socially connected during this time.

Adjunct Professorial Research Fellow Dr Lynne Parkinson says seniors only need a smartphone to enjoy the benefits of video messaging family and friends.

She says while having a computer or tablet can suit some, most have access to a smartphone which can provide access to apps like Messenger or Whatsapp at the touch of a button, helping them stay connected.

The perception that older people cannot understand or use technology is more about ageism than reality, according to Dr Parkinson.

“According to Deloitte’s, 91 per cent of people aged 55 or over own a smartphone, and we know from our work with people over the age of 75, they can also get their heads around videoconferencing and find it a very useful tool for social connection.

Dr Parkinson discusses the opportunities that exist for seniors to connect using technologies on CQUniversity Commentary, a new podcast series produced by CQUniversity.

“In our experience, the main barriers to using these types of more innovative technologies are fear of getting it wrong and lack of internet access.

Dr Parkinson suggests a staged approach in introducing video conferencing apps.

“If older people are supported to develop confidence in the use of these tools, they will be quick to adopt the technologies.”

Dr Parkinson has developed a suite of “how to” documents to help seniors navigate common technologies and use of the internet. These are available via CQUniversity’s Caring for the Carer webpage.

She said the need to use technology to connect with family and friends during this period has become vital and a welcome new skill for many – and they are up for the challenge.

“Older people are just as competent with technology as younger people when that technology is introduced in a patient and staged way,” Dr Parkinson explained.

“For example, starting with smartphone call capability, then looking at apps, voice only, then onto video.

“Our research has shown that older people can not only learn new technologies, but they can enjoy them and generalise their use to other parts of their life and interests.

“There is a great opportunity now for older people to not just connect with family and friends, but to find like-minded people all over the world who share their hobbies and interests, to get fully connected to the outside world.”

Dr Parkinson believed, “this crisis is fast tracking a necessary change” for this demographic.

“Where there is strong motivation, such as wanting to attend online religious services, older people would feel more encouraged to try, but may need support to achieve connection.”

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