December 14, 2009

AUSTRALIA: Virtually at gran's door

. MELBOURNE, Victoria / The Herald Sun / December 13, 2009 By Greg Thom OLDER Australians living in nursing homes are receiving virtual visits from family and friends via the internet. Video-conferencing technology is being used to improve elderly residents' quality of life and reduce their sense of social isolation. The pilot project across regional Australia also includes video-conferenced social activities such as Who Wants to be a Millionaire contests against other aged care facilities. The initiatives are highlighted in a new white paper which argues for more cash and resources to help bridge the IT gap between the elderly and the wider community. The report Golden OpportunITy, commissioned by KPMG and welfare group Church Resources, found Australia's aged-care sector urgently needed a significant boost in IT infrastructure. KPMG digital-business partner Malcolm Alder, said the report's findings demonstrated innovative use of technology had the power to revolutionise the lives of residents, staff and families in aged care, particularly in regional areas. "New technology allows us to help people in ways we never imagined even 10 years ago," Mr Alder said. Church Resources ConnectCare Program manager Con Koulouris said Australia's rapidly ageing population would present huge challenges in the years ahead. Two million Australians are aged over 70 while a further one million are 80 or more. "The challenges to putting this in place are significant, but when baby boomers hit 'old age' we need to ensure infrastructure is at their fingertips and not at the back door," Mr Koulouris said. He pointed to an electronic record system that had improved staff efficiency and allowed carers to spend less time on paperwork and more time looking after residents. [rc] © Herald and Weekly Times