The upsides of up-skilling in older age

If there’s one thing that the pandemic has taught us, it’s the importance of having some basic computer and technology skills as you age, to ensure you’re not missing out on everyday connections with friends and family.

“These days, the world is online, so if you’re not, chances are you’re going to be missing out,” says Bonnie Robinson of Virtual Village East, a social network for seniors that has really come into its own during recent lockdowns. “If you do have at least some basic skills, such as knowing how to use Facebook or Zoom, ordering groceries online, watching a video on YouTube or sending a text, you’ll be much more able to cope and manage during challenging times like these.”

Initiated by HBH Senior Living to help older people in the wider community to age well and live fully, Virtual Village East offers a range of age-friendly activities, both online and offline, including technology classes, exercise programmes, a walking group, outings and regular catch-ups with other seniors.

“The pandemic has highlighted the need to understand technology, but that’s not the only reason you may be isolated as you get older,” says Bonnie. “You may be ill or recovering from an operation or simply not as able to get out and about as you used to. Knowing how to use technology means you can still connect with others, which can really improve your wellbeing as you age – loneliness and isolation have been proven to be as bad for your health as smoking.”

“One of the goals of Virtual Village East is to support older people to maintain the skills they’ve brought from the workforce, or gain some basic skills,” says Bonnie. “Aside from staying in touch with family and friends, being online means you can access a wide range of services from home. For example, many medical practices will do online consultations these days, which can be a real advantage if you don’t have transport, or don’t want to go out and sit in a waiting room.”

“Technology means you can continue to be connected and involved in a way that’s a lot harder to do without it. And with the right support you’re never too old to learn,” she reiterates. “Many seniors in residential care have been able to enjoy video calls with family members during the lockdowns thanks to staff being able to support them with the technology. Some were able to see overseas family members for the first time in years. Technology can be really magical for families and we need to make sure that older people are able to participate in this magic.”

Virtual Village East is a network of friendship and support for seniors in East Auckland. To join them or learn more about their activities, phone 09 538 0827 or email co-ordinator@virtual-village-east.org.nz

About Mason Head

Content Creator and Publication Lead at Eldernet

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