Loneliness kills: it’s as simple as that. We know that loneliness increases the risk of premature death by 26%, and can be as bad for your health as smoking 15 cigarettes a day; but what, as a community, can we do about it?
The answer is simple - connection. We might have forgotten the idea of the traditional ‘village’, and COVID-19 has made things more difficult for many of those that were already socially isolated, but with a world of technological possibilities still there, those of us at Feros Care and Be Someone For Someone are working hard to ‘connect’ those who may otherwise be left behind.
We passionately believe that no one should be lonely. That’s why, especially through these isolating times, we’re raising awareness of the impacts of loneliness and tackling it head on.
Here are the best things about Feros Care’s technology programs which provide seniors, at risk of being left behind, with a personal IT coach to help them learn life changing tech skills so they can live a happy, connected life once again.
1. They significantly reduce social isolation
Through ten, one-on-one sessions, our Let’s Get Technical program helps each senior set and achieve their personal goals, all with the support of our empathetic Feros Care ‘coaches’ (Technical Support Officers). Being able to fully participate in an increasingly digital world that seniors feel excluded from always tops the list; learning how to connect with friends and family, use social media, join virtual communities , do online banking or access e-health records.
“I’ve found that the program makes a huge difference in the lives of clients who might be lonely,” says Elliott Cronnan, Technical Support Officer for Feros Care. “So many clients are at home by themselves and love me coming by and talking to them. They just love the chat, and learning the devices is a huge bonus because they can then connect with so many others through the new skills they have.”
2. There’s a world of possibilities out there
Once the mystery of technology has been mastered, the possibilities for connection are endless. Take Feros Care’s Virtual Social Centre for example which helps people create friendships, and really participate in community again, all online. It’s like the liveliest of community centres, offering members the opportunity to learn languages, engage in at home exercises, catch up with others, or even try new arts and crafts from the comfort of their home.
“The classes are often full, which shows exactly how popular it is,” Elliott says. “Some clients are even getting on board and offering their own help! We have an elderly couple who is going to be helping with a German class. Others have been offering travel lessons from their trips around the world. They’re almost creating their very own university along the way!”
3. Delivered by a passionate Feros Care team
Empathy, patience and skill are core qualities of Feros Care tech coaches. They love what they do and it shows. A ceramic tiler by trade, Elliott fell into the role after an injury resulted in him pursuing an IT degree. Having coached junior league football for eight years, Elliott explains that he loved seeing the kids improve – and he takes that same mentality into his clients at Feros Care.
“I go to work every day and I just love it,” Elliott explains. “There’s not one day that I don’t love. You’re actually helping people get better at doing what they want to do, and there’s something so meaningful about that.”
4. There are no limits to the creativity and connection
When we feel strong and independent, connecting with the world is easier. When we feel frail and vulnerable we hide away. With new found tech confidence there’s no limit to the technology seniors can be introduced to, to help them live their best life. Through the Smart Home Modification Program, Elliott has set up Google devices so that his clients can ask for recipes, and hear them read out step by step. Or he’ll set up a background screen to flick through a selection of photos when it’s not being used for other purposes, so it becomes a beautiful way of displaying all their memories.
“My clients love the possibilities, and there are so many ways to improve their day-to-day life that we may have never thought about,” Elliott points out. “One of my clients constantly needs to get up in the middle of the night so now he has an indoor sensor that turns on a series of inside lights whenever he goes to the bathroom.”
Other assistive technologies include personal alarms, fall detectors, robotic vacuum cleaners, electronic door locks. The range is endless.
Using tech to connect with Feros Care health professionals is also a magical way to provide seniors with confidence and control over their health. With Feros Care’s Telehealth Remote Monitoring service, easy to use devices allow them to take their own vital signs and conduct daily wellbeing assessments received electronically by Feros Care’s Telehealth team with nurses who check in to make sure all is well.
5. It really, truly changes lives
Erich and Edith Neumann from the Gold Coast are one couple who have seen huge improvements with the addition of just a few devices. Check out their story below.
Mr Neumann says that before starting the 10 week program, he and his wife were reluctant to turn on their tablet: “Before, I think I was scared of it, but now I think it’s scared of me!”
Now they’ve mastered Skype calls and regularly log into the Feros Care Virtual Social Centre to check out activities with other seniors, such as exercise classes, language lessons and health literacy programs. It’s taken their social life to a whole new level – and it’s ready to help a whole lot of others along the way.
We know that a well-connected world is our best chance at ending loneliness for good.
Our Be Someone For Someone initiative offers a range of resources, programs and opportunities to support those that are lonely, or those wanting to help someone who is lonely.