People living with dementia in Queensland are showing there are no barriers to learning new technology as they take part in a pilot project that aims to improve digital literacy amongst ageing Australians.
Therapists at Ozcare’s Day Respite Centre on the Gold Coast have started rolling out the project that involves the use of a new ‘smart’ technology screen recently adopted throughout Australian schools as a teaching tool.
“We are empowering the older Australians in our care to access the internet and increase their social connectedness as many are living with more dispersed families than ever before,” Ozcare’s Diversional Therapist Sharon Guarnaccia said.
Connected to the internet via its own built-in web browser, the SMART Ultra HD screen acts like a giant smart tablet, allowing users to zoom, pan, flick and swipe content found online such as images, sound and video.
Respite centre users are also connected to vast library of resources alongside 2.4 million other classrooms around the world using the smart boards as teaching tools.
Ms Guarnaccia said the Burleigh Heads’ centre clients are engaging with the screen daily through card games, music and images as part of ‘reminiscence’ therapy.
However, they will soon learn to Skype on the screen so they can join a growing number of older Australians engaging in tele-medicine in which patients stay in touch with health practitioners on their own digital devices at home.
Screen users can also draw directly onto the surface with their fingers, hands or knuckles and the artwork can be printed out for display.
“It is a lot more challenging and gets those synapses firing for many of our clients, especially those who are living with dementia. But some of them are already that savvy that they have their own smart phones and we can connect those and have uploaded images onto the screen for others to see.
“The beauty of the screen is that it is instantaneous because it is connected to the internet, so if someone mentions the name of a car from their youth – they can bring up an image, which can sometimes be quite emotional for them when they start to talk about the old days.”
There are 3,000 applications on Smart Board, including:
- Gallery Essentials - over 7,000 learning objects including images, backgrounds, dynamic Flash files, video and audio content
- Sound recorder - records sound directly into your SMART Notebook
- Multiple pen tools, including crayon and paintbrush – these cane be used to create and emphasize content, draw in any color and even convert handwriting to text
- Insert sound – sound can be added with one click from a gallery for audio files of famous speeches, animal sounds, phonics, instruments and more
- Multitouch support – two can work together on the surface using a pen, finger or fist
- Gestures - zoom, pan, flick and swipe to scale objects or pages, flick an object or swipe between pages. You can also touch the interactive whiteboard to shake objects to quickly group and ungroup them
Ozcare’s Day Respite Coordinator Kylie Jones said the not-for-profit aged care provider is evaluating the use of other smart boards as part of dementia therapy across the state.
She said the project follows a latest report by Australia’s eSafety Commissioner that showed just over half of Australians aged 70 or over are now online – the smallest cohort in the country.
“The data shows just 51 per cent in this age group are using the internet to help live their lives, searching for recipes, cinema times, public transport timetable and online shopping,” Ms Jones said.
“But with findings showing that 31 per cent of total childcare hours involve grandparents, the government is trying to tackle the fear of technology and we can recognize the huge benefits in doing that for our clients.”
As part of the government program, a new App is also being developed for Grandparents to help them engage with their grandchildren online.