The world went online more than ever before during the pandemic, with everything from work to schooling, from bookclubs to fitness classes taking place over ZOOM or TEAMS or Google Hangout – virtual areas that previously only existed in the business community.
While young people may have embraced the opportunity to finally have had a good excuse for using their devices 24/7, this switch to a digital world proved challenging for many of the older generation.
This was one of the issues addressed by the Netwell CASALA research centre at Dundalk Institute of Technology (DkIT) over the past two years.
As s a prominent research centre in the design, development, and testing of digital solutions to address health and wellbeing challenges experienced as we age, The Living Lab at Netwell CASALA brings all sectors of the community together to identify challenges and then find real world solutions.
During the past year, Netwell CASALA has hosted a series of community workshops, called Building Digital Bridges, to focus on the questions of access and uptake of digital technologies by older adults in the region.
Attendees at the most recent workshop, held in the Crowne Plaza Hotel, included representatives from Louth library, LMETB, Louth Age Friendly office, and Louth Leader Partnership, as well as Drogheda Community Services, Drogheda & District Support for Older People (DDS4OP), and Men’s Sheds.
Businesses with a focus on ageing were also present, including representatives from Home Instead, Bluebird Care and Acorn. Most importantly, older citizens from the Living Lab and Smart Network attended the workshop and spoke about their experiences using technology to stay in touch with others during the pandemic.
Participants engaged in a series of lively discussions about barriers and useful support, as well as how to encourage older people to give technology a try. Some of the feedback from this workshop are included in a new Age Action report on digital literacy of older men in rural communities.
‘We find older people are willing to use digital technologies as long as they are supported to do so,’ said Suzanne Smith, NetwellCASALA manager and co-author of the report, ‘but we need to listen to what people need and not assume all older people are the same or want the same things from technology’.
To join the Living Lab or receive a full list of suggestions and recommendations from the workshop series or a copy of the Age Action report contact NetwellCASALA at firstname.lastname@example.org or www.netwellcasala.org