By ALYSSA-JANE TUCKER.
Plans for Stage 1 of the National Broadband Network will see high-speed broadband delivered to over 90 per cent of Australian households, but many elderly Australians will not benefit.
With the internet being increasingly relied on to help run the daily lives of Australians, the elderly without access to computers or the internet are at risk of missing out on the services they provide.
Program Manager for the Elderly and Aging Lyndall Fowler, of the Adelaide Hills Community Health Services says that “very few” of her clients use the internet.
She said that it is becoming a real issue, as many elderly individuals could be missing out on vital services.
The Australian Bureau of Statistics 2011 study Australian Social Trends revealed that just 31 per cent of Australians aged 65 and over regularly accessed the internet.
This is less than half of the 74 per cent of those aged between 15 and 65, who reported regular internet access.
Ms Fowler said that “the elderly need support” to gain the full benefits of the internet.
Nursing homes are amongst those who are trying to provide that support and improve computer and internet access for the elderly, to help them transition into the online world.
At Restvale Nursing Home in Lobethal, residents have access to two computers.
Restvale aged care nurse Necia Carter said that she had seen many residents experience some wonderful benefits through the use of the internet.
“It’s fantastic to see how much our residents enjoy the computers,” Ms Carter said.
“Some of our residents like to play games on the computers, but using Skype is what they enjoy the most.
“They can see their families a lot more often.”
Ms Carter thinks that the National Broadband Network would be valuable for the nursing home, as it may allow them to get more computers.
“Certainly if we had more computers, our residents would have a lot more opportunities to use the internet,” Mrs Carter said.
However, they have at least three years to wait before the National Broadband Network reaches them, as Lobethal won’t be amongst the towns being connected in Stage 1.
Most of the residents require help to use the computers, which the nursing staff are usually able to provide.
Mrs Carter said she understand the difficulty for independently living elderly people to access the internet with no assistance.
“Not being able to use the internet could be quite isolating,” she said.
For 84-year-old Sylvia Breen of Hahndorf, this hasn’t been an issue.
Mrs Breen is what you might call “tech-savvy”.
After a lot of coaxing from her grandchildren, Mrs Breen is now the proud owner of an iPad 2, and has become quite the expert- with some coaching.
“I can Skype, play Sudoku and see the news for the day,” she said.
“Sometimes I can even work out how to Google!”
Mrs Breen said that Skype was the best thing about having the internet as it allows her to see her children and grandchildren living interstate.
“Now that I can Skype, I can see all of my grandchildren quite regularly,” she said.
“It’s much better than a picture.
“I feel like I am there with them.”
However, Mrs Breen’s friend, 93-year-old Linda Storch, also of Hahndorf, isn’t quite so open to the idea of using the internet.
“It’s just too hard,” Mrs Storch said.
“When you haven’t grown up with these things it’s confusing.”
Mrs Storch found the idea of the internet quite overwhelming, and felt intimidated when urged by businesses to use their online services.
She said she liked the idea of being able to do things such as Skype, but believed for her it would be “impossible to ever be able to work the darn things out.”
“The National Broadband Network won’t help me. I probably couldn’t turn a computer on so how would it benefit me?”