Toward the end of an academic career the imperative of getting grants and publishing in A* journals diminishes and the question of leaving a meaningful legacy becomes more important. All this research that I have published for other academics to read could actually be turned into something practical and useful. Hence, my last big projected before I retire is to start up a Social Business, Living Connected, built on the findings of my research into IT and Seniors.
The founders of Living Connected are, like myself, senior citizens who have embraced IT. We have followed the digital revolution over many decades and enthusiastically make use of each new generation of personal computing to enrich our lives. Over the past few years we have been involved in projects helping residents in aged-care facilities to also enrich their lives by learning to use computers. We have done research and become experts in knowing what works and what doesn’t. Now we want to put this expertise into a support program for seniors who live at home.
A review of international research in the fields of gerontology and information systems confirms the importance to continued Social Wellbeing and good Quality of Life of (i) staying connection with family and engaged with community, (ii) spending time on meaningful activity, (iii) being independent and in control of everyday affairs, and (iv) having a dignified life. Our own research has demonstrated how many seniors who are becoming isolated at home or in care can better achieve these benefits when they learn, with help, to use IT. It is definitely not just a matter using IT for its own sake. The distinctive aspect of the Living Connected program is that top priority is given to enhancing the wellbeing of clients and each program is customised to the needs of individual clients. Our personalised, integrated and continuing service is based on our research which has found that:
- Engagement, activity, independence and dignity are social determinates of health
- There is no reason an older motivated person cannot learn to use suitable IT
- However, it is not just a matter of giving someone an ipad and a couple of lessons
- Appropriate technology and continuing support is essential
- You mast start by recognising the diverse needs and situations of each client
- Meeting those needs requires personalised, patient relevant guidance
- It is important that seniors learn on their own device
- The value of easy, reliable and affordable Internet access
- Ongoing support must be friendly and non-threatening
- Having fun is critical for success.
- Social connections via the Internet should not be at the expense of face-to-face, indeed the two modes of interaction can support each other.
You can read about this project online:
An opinion piece in Aged Care Insite Blog: “Nurture seniors’ tech skills for everyone’s gain”
An article in Educational Gerontology “Enhancing the Wellbeing of the Elderly: Social Use of Digital Technologies in Aged Care” by Helen Hasan and Henry Linger
Publicity on the University of Wollongong News entitled “Growing Old Gracefully”