The program, Suncare Digital, has been funded by the Australian Government’s ‘Commonwealth Home Support Programme’ and is aimed at keeping seniors connected digitally – teaching them new technical skills and delivering them an iPad to access the internet.
Suncare Community Services Chief Executive, Russell Mason, expressed that even before Australia was asked to stay at home due to the COVID-19 pandemic, many of their seniors were experiencing isolation and feeling disconnected from their family, their medical professionals and their community.
A recent report from National Seniors Australia, ‘The Senior Surfers Research Report 2019’ states that there are clear benefits of internet access for seniors to alleviate risks in late life such as loneliness, isolation and less mobility.
“Increasingly our clients are being asked to access services through technology and so this program allows them to have an email address, link to government sites including My Aged Care, carry out online banking and monitor their health through telehealth and apps such as The Diary and Calm.
Suncare Digital participant, 66-year-old Joy Alexander said that the program has made her feel empowered and she has been enjoying her new-found digital confidence. “I also have apps on the iPad where I can check my blood pressure, do some exercise or just read the newspaper online.”
Activities Co-ordinators, Krista Flick and Liam Brix, has been working with a number of Suncare customers in May, and whilst COVID-19 has meant Suncare were not able to do their original in-person workshops as part of the delivery of Suncare Digital, they have put everyone’s new skills to the test as social distancing is enforced.
“Many of our customers would much prefer face-to-face interaction, but as people learn how to use the devices they can see how many opportunities there are to have an increased connection with people through these new platforms,” said Ms Flick.
“We have developed Quick Start Guides and step-by-step activities that everyone can start with and when we are able to conduct some peer group workshops we will be encouraging everyone to connect digitally and learn from each other.”
Mr Mason has announced due to the success of the program, Suncare Community Services has decided to resource an additional 50 iPads in June. This program will be ongoing and available to Suncare customers through a range of funding packages.
“At Suncare, we do everything we can to help people stay in their own home for as long as they can and it has been so heartening to see so many people embrace something that they might have first feared,” said Mr Mason.
Suncare Digital has been delivered with technology partner ENTAG and full details of the program can be accessed from Liza Mellon, Community Wellbeing Manager, Suncare Community Services.