By Helen Hasan
Seven years ago I became a full time carer for my husband who had early onset Dementia from Alzheimer’s disease. His condition had deteriorated to the point where he could not stay home by himself and no longer qualified for daycare. We received very few visitors and it was very difficult to go out anywhere. We were virtually isolated in our own home.
Fortunately for me I had a computer connected to the Internet plus well developed computer skills. I could continue to work part-time, do most everyday transactions online such as banking and shopping. I could still Skype to family, friends and colleagues.
I began to wonder how others in this situation managed without the digital capability that I had. Not everyone wants to learn to use a computer or could afford to have an Internet connection; but there must be many who would benefit greatly if they could.
After the death of my husband I started to do some research on how older people used computers. Some colleagues and I then conducted some action research in a local aged-care facility. We set up a corner of their recreation room with a few computers and ran classes every Friday afternoon for some residents who came along. The first thing we noticed was that they were all very different. Some just wanted to play games and surf the net. Others wanted to do banking online, research their family history or write their life’s story. Some had poor eyesight or poor dexterity. Some would only use a “proper” computer with a keyboard and screen while others took readily to the ipad.
While not all participants came every week, it was most rewarding to see the joy on their when they accomplished something that was important to them. Sometimes it was seeing a new grandchild for the first time on Skype or finding their old home on Google Earth. For others it was finding some free knitting patterns that they could download or the words to a song they knew as children.
So now we are starting a social business, Living Connected, to support people who want to stay living at home as they get older to set up and use computers for whatever will improve their quality of life. Just watch this space.