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Senior Connectedness

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This project was a scoping study to investigate the role that technology plays in improving social connectedness and inclusion among older Australians.

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This study focused specifically on older Australians (referred to as seniors) and looked into:

1

What connectedness means to them

3

How they learn about technology (referred to as Integrated Rhythms)

2

Barriers to connectedness

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How they source information about technology 

A collaborative network approach was used to understand how collaborative networks shape not only the adoption of technology, but also its use in attending to the social and instrumental needs of participants of these networks.  

At the conclusion of the study, our research indicated that collaborative networks had great potential to benefit those who participated in them.

Download our insights on connectedness and technology among older Australians.

Project Outcomes:

 

We knew that seniors

  • were willing to learn and add new digital skills to their repertoire that enabled them to live how they wanted. 

  • looked for intimate, supportive and rewarding relationships with their families and recognised that new technologies can help facilitate this.  

  • faced barriers to connectiveness and we wanted to understand how they could be overcome.

 

But we wanted to dig a little deeper…

Connectedness has several meanings for older Australians:

  • Getting information and keeping up-to-date

  • Keeping in touch with family and friends

  • Coordinating activities and events

  • Participating in and belonging to communities

  • Having access to products, services, and experiences

 

For older Australians, connecting through technology means supporting their existing relationships. This differs from a younger demographic who also use social media and other platforms for self-presentation and to make new connections.

“Technology is a double edged sword.  Under the right conditions it can lead to connectedness, community engagement and all sorts of social inclusion but under the wrong conditions it can actually create more barriers.” 
 

Assoc Prof Bernardo Figueiredo Shaping Connections Director

and Co-founder

Barriers to connectedness

 

There are still some barriers for older Australians when it comes to using technology to enable social connectedness such as:

  • Fear of online bullying and scams

  • The belief that digital technology does more harm than good

  • Lack of resources and skills

 

Watch this video for more insights into overcoming the fear of technology

“The prime difficulty (with seniors) tends to be the fear of using technology – will they be scammed, will they break the computer or make mistakes?  We find that as seniors learn more about technology, try new strategies and share information with friends, they gain confidence” 
 

Glenn Wall, Vice President, U3A Network Victoria

Integrated Rhythms

Older Australians have their own rhythms for learning and using technology:

  • Most seniors believe connection through technology is unavoidable, but they want it on their own terms.

  • Most prefer to “learn what you need as you go.”

  • Prefer platforms and applications that enable them to control the pace and content of learning and use.

 

Sources of Information

Specific sources of information that transmit norms, attitudes, motivations, and behaviours to learners are known as Socialisation Agents.   When older Australians learn about new technology, family, semi-formal educational systems, and the internet are the most prominent socialisation agents.

Family

  • Family plays a vital role in how seniors navigate the technology landscape.

  • There is still some frustration expressed between older Australians and their adult children.

  • Some seniors experience grandchildren as more tolerant and understanding of their learning need.

Watch this video for more insights into a family’s role as an agent of socialisation

Semi-formal educational systems

  • Semi-formal education settings play a critical role as socialisation agents, especially in settings such as U3A computer classes for seniors. 

  • In these settings, seniors interact with peers with similar lived experiences.

  • Peers are more prone to use the same pace and mode of socialisation, which makes these settings effective.

  • Seniors would interchangeably take the role as agent and learner in social interactions.

 

Watch this video for more insights into a semiformal educational system as an agent of socialisation:

The internet

 

  • The internet works in tandem with the other socialisation agents.

  • It supplements and extends existing knowledge and skills.

  • It can help get results quicker. 

  • Many older Australians consult Google or watch videos on YouTube to learn how to use new features in apps or programs.

Project outcomes:

 

Our research indicated that collaborative networks have great potential to benefit those who participate in them, and that further work needed to be done to:

  • understand how seniors learn and use technology in real-life situations

  • leverage the support of agents of socialisation

  • design pathways for social connectedness

  • establish opportunities for value co-creation.

  • develop co-created strategies to overcome barriers to connectiveness

 

What’s next?

The Co-designing Digital Strategies with Older Adults Project was the next step in this research.

 

This Senior Connectedness project was funded and supported by:

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