Assessing and supporting digital inclusion is critical when connecting older adults with services vital to their well being.
The team at Shaping Connections developed an approach based on their research that reduces the fear of technology amongst seniors by acknowledging their lived experiences and developing specific tools to assess and support their unique needs.
Where previous approaches to the digital divide in older adults focused on expanding access to internet infrastructure or providing ‘soft’ skills with limited experience, Shaping Connections has examined the internal barriers of older adults and their interaction with digital technology to mitigate and promote digital connection.
The team discovered internal barriers of older adults were actually subjective beliefs about potential harms in using technology. These perceived risks include:
Operational and Function – such as forgetting instructions or passwords, not keeping up or wasting time.
Personal and Social - being made fun of, feeling incompetent, getting frustrated or being overwhelmed.
Privacy and Transactional - online payments, losing privacy, identity theft or automatic payments.
Purchase Transaction - making transaction mistakes, not receiving goods or processing errors.
Overspending - buying too much online, increasing software upgrade or device costs.
Physical Harm - physical inactivity, becoming addicted to technology, eyesight or strain injury.
Resources and Tools in Promote Digital Inclusion
Drawing on research from these perceived risks, the team developed a set of Interactive Tools:
Tool 1 – Assess your digital literacy level
These tools are an invaluable asset to assist service and training organisations improve their understanding of the barriers to digital technology for older adults, and facilitate the improvement of communication and activities within this segment.
They also allow older adults to self-assess their digital literacy level, understand the pros and cons of various sources of digital technology and equip themselves with strategies for improving their understanding.
Assessing and Supporting Digital Inclusion
Key benefits in providing interactive tools as an assessment tool include:
a way of assessing and supporting digital inclusion for service organisations that are vital to an older adult's well being.
a training opportunity for educational hubs to understand barriers to digital learning and create courses that respond to this.
an insight for individuals so they can continue their own path to digital literacy, as well as encouraging the growth of others in their community.
“The idea of a strong digital divide in vulnerable communities is a myth”, says Bernardo Figueiredo, Shaping Connections Director and one of the members of the research program.
“It’s a spectrum, and what’s important is to help all Australians feel digitally included. Older Australians have a great desire to increase their digital literacy, but treating them like anyone else learning to use a computer, mobile device, or the internet doesn’t work.
When we recognise the diversity of needs amongst older adults, and provide the tools to address those needs directly, we see an immediate rise in the use of technology that provides benefits to their health, lifelong learning, hobbies, and social lives.”
These findings were an outcome of projects funded by a grant from the Australian Communications Consumer Action Network (ACCAN), made possible by the support of RMIT University, The University of the Third Age, and the City of Whittlesea.
Shaping Connections hopes this research will provide a basis for older adults, organisations supporting vulnerable communities of all kinds, and policymakers to improve digital inclusion nationwide.
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