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Silver surfers ride a new wave of learning

You’re never too old to learn - and there’s plenty on offer for senior Australians who want to know how to use a computer and make the most of the health, educational, entertainment and social benefits of using faster NBN connections.

Think you can’t teach old dogs new tricks? Think again.

Sue is 93. It’s not an age where you might think you’d be that keen to learn how to use a computer if you’d never used one before.

But Sue was eager to have a face-to-face chat with her sister… who lives more than 16,000 kilometres away in Holland.

So her daughter Margaret took her along to Coffs Seniors Computer Club, in NSW where, among other things, Sue learnt how to use Skype.

As a result, for the first time in quite a while, Sue achieved her dream of seeing her sister and having a good face-to-face chat.

Since we rolled out the network in Coffs Harbour on the New South Wales North Coast, it’s one of the more popular subjects the club teaches.

Club Treasurer Lorraine Tibbs says: “It’s one of the things they want to learn to do. They also want to know how to get into emails and how to find files that they save, and how to put photos on a CD to send to relatives.”

Lorraine, 70, agrees with Nan Bosler, president of the Australian Seniors Computer Clubs Association, that the speed of services over the NBN has made teaching seniors less frustrating, as pages download faster and connections are more reliable.*

“Look at the health implications and education implications,” says Ms Bosler. “We’ve just got to have fast-speed broadband.”

A recent Southern Cross University study on Coffs Harbour entitled Retired Australians use of Information Technology stated that high-speed internet “had the potential to provide better health outcomes, increased social connectedness, enhanced functional capability and caregiver support” for seniors but concluded that more needs to be done to make them aware of what’s available, how to use the technology and what it costs.

In fact, there are many opportunities for Grey Nomads, Silver Surfers or newbies to technology to learn how to make the most of computers and the fast internet connections offered by us across the country.

In February, a four-year national initiative called Go Digi was launched in Canberra by Infoxchange and Australia Post to make more Australians digitally literate. Following research that 4 million Australians are not online**, Go Digi aims to help the one-in-five adults missing out on the potential social, health, educational and economic benefits of getting on board.

Go Digi partners with organisations like Nan Bosler’s to provide the learning guides and support for seniors, non-English speakers, indigenous people and small businesses that have had no experience of computer technology to reap the benefits.

“What we are trying to do is to break down the first barrier of confidence,” says Brendan Fitzgerald, manager of digital inclusion at Infoxchange. “We are trying to encourage people to take on technology as a positive experience.”

Another initiative to get older Australians up to speed with the latest technology is being run by the Department of Family and Community Services in NSW. It’s called Tech Savvy Seniors and it runs computer courses around the state.

Dr Sue Malta, a research fellow at the National Ageing Research Institute who has done studies on senior Australians using online dating sites, is in no doubt.

“I am sure if computers work faster it is better for everyone,” she says.


* Your experience including the speeds actually achieved over the NBN depends on the technology over which services are delivered to your premises and some factors outside our control like your equipment quality, software, broadband plans and how your service provider designs its network.

** Campbell, S, Mason, C. Griffith, C. et al. Broadband Impact and Challenges: realising the benefits from the digital economy Australian Centre for Broadband Innovation, CSIRO EP1312215


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