Zooming in on over 50s to beat isolation

From fitness to computer classes to accessing services like Telehealth and government sites, to family gatherings and simply checking in, many of Cire’s mature-aged learners are staying connected during COVID thanks to a special digital device loan program.

Without devices of their own, many of these seniors would have been even more isolated and vulnerable but the program and the ongoing support of Cire trainers, has enabled them to venture into a brave new world of connectivity, as well as further develop their overall online confidence and skills.

Cire was fortunate to gain funding through the Federal Government’s Be Connected initiative to roll out the digital device loan program through its learning and training sites at Yarra Junction, Lilydale and Chirnside Park.

“It has been hugely rewarding to be able to support the over 50s in our community with Samsung tablets to help keep them connected with the outside world in the comfort and safety of their own home,’ said Jenelle Strachan, Manager of Cire Community Hubs”.

‘During the pandemic, Zoom has become a household buzz word for connecting people, socially or for education and work.  Equipping our over 50s with devices, skills and confidence to use various platforms to see and connect to their families and friends has been an incredibly powerful tool in helping combat feelings of social isolation and loneliness.’

Cire is part of the Be Connected network, an Australian Government initiative aimed at increasing the confidence, skills and online safety of older Australians in using digital technology. It targets those aged 50 years and over, who have minimal or no engagement with digital technology.

The COVID loan program was in response to a Be Connected survey that revealed that 75% of older learners did not have devices at home and access to the internet which seriously limited their ability to stay in touch with family and friends during social isolation and restriction periods.

Pat - grandmother from Lilydale

Pat – grandmother from Lilydale

One Cire learner, Pat from Lilydale was thrilled to receive her device because she said she could ‘see’ her grandchildren and also keep up her Fit4Life classes that were being delivered virtually by Chirnside Park Community Hub.

Alan, from Cire’s project-based Tech Hub Class where students learn practical and necessary skills for everyday life, was equally thrilled. The loan meant he could continue to access the internet including the Be Connected site to further learn how to operate and perform specific skills based on his own needs, as well as access apps to help him with his spelling.

‘The Be Connected website is the best I have ever used and all the material has been very thoughtfully written and designed with the true user in mind,’ said Alan. Pre-COVID Tech Hub classes used the Be Connected app and students found it very user-friendly with a great blend of videos, quizzes and information.

Philip and Sui who both come from Culturally and Linguistically Diverse (CALD) backgrounds agreed that having a device enables them to access Zoom classes and continue with ‘speaking practice and pronunciation. Thank you so much’.

An equally appreciative Tami from Cire’s Reconnect program said it has been a real confidence booster being able to ‘play around’ with the device to learn how to use it and safely.

Pictured above
Cire trainer Rowan Barr with Alan and Naomi Taylor, Cire Community Hubs Coordinator