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Older Canberrans need help with Zoom and Skype to stay connected

Elly Mackay

3 September 2020: Older Canberrans are confident using email, but are falling behind when it comes to video apps like Skype and Zoom, according to new research from the News and Media Research Centre (N&MRC) at the University of Canberra.

Researchers surveyed more than 500 members of seniors’ organisation Council on the Ageing ACT (COTA ACT) to better understand the needs of older news consumers and how their perceptions of news have changed over time.

Survey results revealed that people aged 70 and above are less inclined to use video streaming applications, lacking the confidence to do so.

The findings also revealed that older Canberrans are the highest consumers of news in the country, with television their preferred source of news.

Project leader Associate Professor Caroline Fisher says while the News and Wellbeing: Older generations and news consumption report shows that older Canberrans are among the highest consumers of news in the country, there are barriers to their digital participation.

“The report shows that only one-third of survey respondents were confident using video messaging apps like Zoom and Skype, and most don’t use them at all,” said Dr Fisher.

“People in their 80s and 90s have the lowest confidence rates. Given that older people are being encouraged to self-isolate and many in aged care facilities are in lock-down due to COVID-19, using video messaging apps is one of the best ways to stay in touch with loved ones.”

The report highlights the important role that news plays in social connectedness and reducing feelings of isolation for elderly people – particularly during periods of isolation.

“Our report shows there is a need among older people to teach them how to use these applications to help reduce feelings of social isolation,” said Dr Fisher.

And while news and feelings of isolation may not appear to have a connection on the surface, Dr Fisher says they go hand in hand.

Of the survey participants, 63 per cent reported that accessing the news helped them feel more connected to the community, and 60 per cent said that they felt more isolated when they did not access the news.

“We know that news is a source of common, shared information to discuss with friends and family,” said Dr Fisher.

“For older Canberrans with cognitive limitations, such as difficulty concentrating, access to news increases a sense of connection to the community.”

“The absence of news, on the other hand, can increase feelings of isolation.”

The full report from the News and Media Research Centre can be found here.