The pilots of the careNET project started in November 2013. They implemented and validated the careNET learning architecture, pathways and resources previously produced. The Spanish and French partners carried out trainings through a specific ICT tool, a digital tablet, involving 120 care workers and care recipients. During these trainings the participants used a Virtual Learning Environment (VLE) consisting of three tools: a social network, a learning platform and a competency wiki. Through the VLE and the related “Learning Relay Centers” provided by the project partners, the trainees learn in an innovative surrounding.

In Spain, the pilot takes place in the city of Burgos. There are 29 carers involved, all women, most of them Latin American immigrants and their respective clients. The pilot began on 12th November 2013 and ended on 19th December. About 77% of participants are aged between 40 and 60 years and almost all care recipients are above 85. Most of the participants, especially those who are between 50 and 60 years old, i.e. 57% of them, have had very little contact with new technologies. This makes the learning curve very slow and fast-tracks the face-to- face sessions. The VLE is complicated to use in short deadlines for people with such a time-consuming job as elderly care. However they are enthusiastic for learning and show strong commitment and a growing curiosity to find daily and professional situations where their newly learned skills are useful. The most appreciated newly acquired competences are related to communication and information. These allow them to maintain or recover contact with their families abroad. This enthusiasm, related to new ways of communications, is shared by the people receiving care.

In France, IPERIA implements the pilot in 4 territories since 18th November 2013 and will end the process in February. The experiment involves 31 care workers and their care recipients constituting mainly women. The care workers are aged between 50 and 59 years and have various levels of digital skill proficiency. At this stage of the pilot, we observe the needs for collective face-to-face sessions dedicated to the fundamental use of the tablet and internet and to the resolution of technical problems. The French care workers are also strongly committed to the training using every tool of the VLE and putting a lot of pressure on them in order to succeed in helping their care recipients to develop digital skills. Some first testimonials highlight the benefits of learning to use digital tools on the area of social life, leisure and professional representation of French care workers. In the next weeks the care workers will begin to learn with older people becoming thus the mediator of their daily digital skills.

In the post-pilot phase we evaluate the results of the pilots and organize validation seminars in Spain and France. We will soon report the final results on the careNET website.

video-callA great number of elderly people are marked by loneliness, mainly because of their children living in distant places. In this case, telephone has always been a consolation for them in order to communicate directly with their beloving ones. The advancement of digital technologies has brought a new dimension in the communication of the seniors, since they can combine voice and video calls with digital tools that can be easily used by them.

Even thought that sounds as a magnificent idea for older people to keep in touch with their family and friends, the problem is that most of them are unfamiliar with new technologies and are afraid of using them. Furthermore, many of the senior houses or hospitals are lacking an internet access, which is necessary for making a voice and video call. Setting up a video call station for the elderly is very easy and requires a computer and a webcamera, either a tablet or a smartphone, and an internet connection. Skype or Google Hangout are nice and very easy digital tools to use, combining voice and video calls. In the market there are a lot of free applications that support voice and video calls.

But why seniors need the video to contact with their family? Apart from a more direct way of communication, video is considered as an extremely useful application especially for elderly that face hearing problems. Video calls benefit, as they can utilize the facial expressions and body language – lost in a basic phone call – to enhance communication. For instance reading lips can help improve understanding among seniors, when they can’t hear well.

In voice and video calls, seniors can watch their grandchildren to snuff off the candles in the birthday cake, sing christmas carols with all the family, and generally share a special moment with loved ones. Video calls also give the chance for communication and peer learning among the elderly, who have the opportunity to exercise their digital skills and feel active.

In conclusion, technology should be considered as a helpmate rather than as an enemy for seniors. Particularly, the voice and video applications is the easiest way to keep the elderly updated and activated in digital world.

Author: Theofili Smprini

In a world where information and communications technology (ICT), and in particular the internet, are transforming the way we communicate, learn and work, thousands of independent sector social care services for adults in England – many of them small, private or voluntary sector organisations – do not have access to high-quality internet or digital technology. This means their users and staff are at a disadvantage in terms of access to training and development, knowledge gathering and full participation in the support networks available online. In 2010, the Social Care Institute for Excellence (SCIE) commissioned  the National Institute of Adult Continuing Education (NIACE) and the Institute for Employment Studies (IES) to undertake a study into the impact of the Get Connected Investment Project. It was established by the Department of Health aimed to enable care providers to improve access for service users, carers, visitors and staff to ICT so they can use the power of the internet to communicate, learn and train.

The evaluation included two rounds of surveys, conducted online, with emails being sent to the main contacts. These were mainly managers or owner/managers, but in some cases were individuals in roles such as activities co-ordinators or administrators. In addition, these lead contacts were asked to forward emails containing survey links to their staff and, where they felt it appropriate, to their service users. The evaluation also included in-depth research at twenty case study sites, each of which was contacted twice by members of the evaluation team, with each round of interviews taking place following each of the two survey rounds. To read more on the survey, please, visit NIACE’s website.

One of the good practices providers presented is Social Care Institute of Excellence with a vast collection of easily understandable good practices that are transferable sustainable and accessible. Such a practice is ‘Carer Aware: Online training course and information resource for carers’, an e-learning course designed to meet the needs of carers. Dudley MBC has designated local libraries as Carer information points and developed free online training for staff and carers. Dudley consulted with carers and staff to develop these resources which have widespread approval.

This is an online resource available to all carers of people with a long term illness or a disability or who are older and frail, staff,  employers and members of the public who wish to know about carers and how they can be supported in the Borough. The online course has also been used to train staff in the 13 libraries across the Borough. Carers were included from the start in the development of the material. Carers were sceptical about the fact that this is an e-resource and not everyone has a PC but it was emphasized that this material can be accessed in public access computers, by other people on their behalf and can be delivered as face to face (blended) learning. The online course was developed, trialled and is now live which is linked to a Carer Aware accreditation scheme.

Carers and staff  were involved at each stage of development through being given access  to an e-demonstration site. They commented on style, format, ease of use, accessibility and usefulness of information.

To read more, please visit: UK Good Practice Collection

References:
Kirsti Ala-Mutka: Mapping Digital Competence:Towards a Conceptual Understanding; JRC67075 –  2011
UK Good Practice Collection
Developing Skills for Carers
Alistair Lockhart-Smith, Fiona Aldridge, Helen Plant, Helen Stevens, Joy Oakley, Linda Miller, Ljaja Sterland, Lorraine Casey, Tom Higgins: : Get Connected – Impact Evaluation

Author: Eva Suba

Social networks and online discussion forums can be used to engage in social contact with people everywhere, regardless of their age or state of health. The opportunity to maintain social relationships is especially important for the elderly and when done extensively is one of the key elements of aging well. However, many older adults in Europe are not spending their time online, let alone using social networks. For example, in the UK only 33% of adults aged 75 years and over had ever used the Internet. In the same country, Ofcom (Independent regulator and competition authority for the UK communications industries) estimates that while 92% of online 16-24 year olds have created a profile on a social networking site, only 25% of online adults over 65 have done the same.
So why don’t the elderly engage in social networks? It is due only to the attitudes and perceptions that they have about these networks (e.g. “I am too old” and “It is too complicated”) or do actual existing barriers (e.g. related to declining health or a lack of resources) keep them at bay? This is a difficult question to answer and more research needs to be done into the real causes, and how these barriers can be removed.
In this article we will tackle the possibilities that social media and online discussion forums can offer to the elderly and how they can actively engage in social networking.

Connect with others, keep in touch and feel empowered

One benefit of social media for the elderly population is the possibility to keep in touch with friends and family through yet another medium, and one that is increasingly popular. Another benefit is that they can join groups and discussions with others interested in the same topics and hobbies. More importantly, they can share their problems with others, from the comfort and privacy of their own home. Author Anja K. Leist  summarises well the disinhibiting effect of online communities: in revealing otherwise painful or embarrassing information, self-disclosure is perceived easier via ICT than via eye-to-eye contact. Social media can, when used effectively, provide older adults with empowerment- a concept that refers to a global sense of connectedness and increased control and self-efficacy. It is interesting to point out that the benefit of empowerment is not limited to the elderly person, but also extends to others around e.g. the formal and informal care-givers. In a study investigating an online forum of care-givers, the number of messages posted per week reduced the negative feelings of strain in the care-giver and improved well-being for both care-giver and patient.

What about the dangers?

Not much is known about potentially negative consequences of social media use of older adults although the subject has been well studied in reference to children and teenagers. It is clear that negative outcomes need to be communicated as well if one wants the elderly person to use social media in a responsible and safe way. One threat that is always present is the misuse of personal information with criminal intent e.g. uploading holiday pictures after providing information on the home address could lead to a theft in one0s home.  Not so common but still plausible is the threat from identity theft (as it is relatively easy on some networks to set up a fake account in the name of someone else). Cyberbulling could also be a threat in the future. These issues can be eased by providing the elderly with clear information on how to deal with personal data online. This information is best provided by a family member or e-facilitator who knows how to handle privacy settings on a given network.

Some ideas

To get the most out of social media, one needs to be active on the sites. A family member, a care-giver or a facilitator can be the right person to explain concepts such as photo uploading, content sharing and similar. The older person who starts using the network will only feel empowered if they know how to find a friend, contribute to a discussion, upload media content and share this content on their profiles. There are also available specific guides on social media for the elderly.
Communication on social networks and the benefits of joining should always address the perceived attitudes among the elderly, and come up with solutions to overcome actual barriers. An excellent starting point is the home environment: using the knowledge of the informal and formal caregivers or persons who visit the elderly regularly. Another resource is the local telecentre or library where an e-facilitator is aware of the issues at hand and can help the elderly get connected onto social media sites and extend their networks.
Let us not forget that social networking sites themselves need to be more inclusive. Barriers need to be researched better so that developers can adapt their usability and user friendliness. For example, older users could be made more comfortable using social networks if privacy settings are closed-off by default, so that their information is not automatically broadcasted.

Conclusions

Social networks may play a key role in getting the elderly to enjoy the benefits of digital empowerment. Social networks alone cannot fulfill the important need for social  contact but are a valid and increasingly used tool to complement other ways of social interaction. In order to get older people to use social networks family members, care-givers, community facilitators and trainers should step in and provide assistance. In the same time design and user friendliness need to be addressed by social network developers.

References

Social Media Use of Older Adults: A Mini-Review
Author: Anja K. Leist
Found on web: November, 6 2013

Adults media use and attitudes report
Author: Ofcom
Published: April 2013
Found on web: November, 6 2013

Silver surfers forgotten in social media boom
Author: Chris Norval, The Conversation
Published: Sep 18, 2013
Found on web: November, 7 2013

Author: Masha Tarle