The internet has changed the way aged care providers operate. From utilising web based software, to receiving prospective client applications, through to completing government body and funding forms. More recently, providers are recognising the benefits of engaging older Australians through the internet. This can come in the form of marketing their organisation online, through to offering free Wi-Fi access or basic computer lessons. It is important that providers understand the value of this commodity in differentiating their business from their competitors.
Benefits for care recipients
While the internet may be thought of as purely an interest of young people, 46 per cent of Australians aged 65 and over identified as internet users in 2013. This percentage will increase as people who access the internet as part of their profession continue to retire.
While some older people may be resistant to using computers, the benefits of having internet access outweigh any initial concerns. By connecting online, aged care residents can stay in touch with family via email and video services, read the news in large print, and play games to stimulate their minds. Older people accessing home care services can go online to request or make changes to their services, order groceries, and access public transport and map information. All of these activities help older people to stay informed and reduce isolation.
Benefits for providers
The internet is an important realm for all aged care providers to be a part of. As the aged care sector becomes increasingly competitive due to provider consolidations and funding changes, marketing an organisation online can be a distinct competitive advantage. With websites such as My Aged Care changing the way individuals access services, providers who are not proactive in this field risk losing valuable prospect opportunities.
As Consumer Directed Care (CDC) makes an impact on both home and residential aged care, providers need to find creative ways to offer person focussed care in a crowded market. By offering access to the internet or banks of devices, providers can emphasise that they cater to an individual’s lifestyle and wellbeing needs, not just their care requirements.
What can aged care providers do to promote digital inclusion?
- There are many organisations that offer basic computer and internet lessons to older people. Many local community centres, libraries, religious groups, and educational institutions have regular lessons for people with little or no computing experience. One of the largest programs available is Tech Savvy Seniors, which was created by Telstra in partnership with the New South Wales, Queensland and Victorian Governments. This program offers free or low cost training in local libraries and Community Colleagues. These classes teach older people how to search the web and find activities of interest online. In addition to the classes, Tech Savvy Seniors has a range of resources available on their website and in DVD form at local libraries across Australia. These resources demonstrate the basics about accessing the internet and can be shown at aged care facilities or day centres to interested care recipients.
- As a standout feature of their services, residential aged care providers can offer free facility Wi-Fi access, while home care providers can offer a bank of shared devices and internet access through their linked day centre. Regular internet use promotes independence, reduces isolation, and helps to deliver consumer choice.
- Tablet devices such as the Apple iPad, Microsoft Surface Pro, and the Dell Inspiron have become the product of choice for many first time users. Unlike most desktop or laptop computers, tablet devices offer touch screens that are intuitive for people with limited computing skills. These devices are also light to carry, connect wirelessly to the internet and offer a simple screen design to easily access desired functionality. Many aged care providers are now purchasing tablet devices for their care recipients in line with their person centred approach to care. Providers can also encourage family members to lend their own tablet device to their loved one to determine whether it is the right fit for that individual.
- Many large businesses run an annual volunteer scheme, where employees spend one day each year giving back to the community. These giving programs often capitalise on employees’ existing skill sets, with computer literacy programs becoming a prominent part of these schemes. Over the last year, staff at Telstra have volunteered to teach basic internet skills to aged care residents as part of their Digital Ambassador program. Aged care providers may wish to contact relevant corporations to find out if they have a volunteer scheme that could benefit their care recipients.
What else can aged care providers do to help promote digital inclusion? Join our conversation below.