While many older Australians are embracing the social and health benefits of digital life, there is a disproportionate number who do not have an understanding of, access to, or experience with, newer digital and online technologies. Swinburne Social Innovation Research Institute researchers partnered with Telstra and two Melbourne Councils – Boroondara and Knox – to find an innovative solution to this social problem. The team drew on the insights of the Australian Digital Inclusion Index and a growing research base to foreground social participation, personal interests and content creation as a way of breaking down the barriers seniors face in learning new digital skills and participating in society online.
The 60+ Online project aimed to develop a model for improving and sustaining seniors’ use of digital technologies through a series of problem-based, creative digital stories and social media workshops. The aims were twofold: (a) to empower seniors to connect with each other, participate in local community and services using digital devices and social media platforms, and (b) to embed sustainable and critical digital engagement practices into everyday activities and existing local training contexts to improve digital participation outcomes.
A three-part workshop series was co-designed by the research team and seniors involved in the Active Aging program at both Councils. The workshops were supported by a closed Facebook Group through which participants were able to interact, experiment and learn how to manage social media accounts safely. Evaluation of the pilot of the 60+ Online workshops found four main outcomes for participants:
- Increased problem-solving capacity and improved self-efficacy (confidence and motivation) with interactive digital technologies
- Improved strategic digital skills (safety, creative content skills and social interaction); i.e., including but moving beyond operational digital skills
- Enhanced social connectedness, reduction of isolation
- Supported social interaction with community organisations and groups, and public and health services through digital channels