Living Connected usually runs sessions in community centres and aged-care facilities, as well as in people's homes if they cannot get to sessions in the community. With all the closures and social-distancing restrictions put in place, they needed to act quickly to ensure their communities remain connected.
Helen Hasan, who runs Living Connected, says "We did not anticipate COVID-19 but have for years promoted digital inclusion as a way to overcome the harmful consequences of isolation which many seniors experience when they continue to live at home as they age. So with the cancellation of our face-to-face groups and home visits, we put together a plan to deliver our services online."
With such a large area to cover along the NSW South Coast, they are grateful that technology is allowing them to communicate, arrange sessions, take bookings and maintain support for their members.
Helen says, "We knew that many of our clients used Skype, or at least know what it is, so we have rostered our mentors on Skype at different times of the week and advertised the times and Skype IDs on our website. If anyone needs help getting onto Skype, they can call us by phone or WhatsApp, and we talk them through the installation and registration process. The clients are often surprised how easy it is, and we use this as an opportunity to discuss with them how they can use the same platforms to socialise online with friends and family. We are also setting up group meetings of mentors with clients who know each other or who have common interests on Skype or Zoom."
"Our experience has always been that if we focus on what the person wants to achieve, take it slow and make it fun, and we can usually get there. Up until now, we have had great difficulty convincing people how important digital inclusion is for older people. But, now that everyone is becoming isolated, they are starting to listen."