This article is part of our showcase of the 2019 Future of Ageing Awards. Nillumbik Shire Council won the Social Inclusion Award.
Tech, Tea and Tales is an intergenerational program delivered in partnership by two social enterprises, Lively and Humankind Enterprises.
The 5-week program commenced April 2019 at the St Andrews Community Centre, bringing together 27 older people with five younger helpers (aged between 18-24) to build social connection, share stories, and increase technology and employment skills.
The program trained and employed young jobseekers to spend meaningful time with older community members in Nillumbik, helping them learn how to use technology as a tool for connection, and hearing and recording their life stories and experiences.
According to 2016 census data, a total of 1,226 people live in St Andrews and the median age is 42. In the St Andrews area, there are 359 people aged 55 and over, representing 29.3 per cent of the overall population. Furthermore, 18.8 per cent of all households in the area are single person households.
Older people are at an increased risk of social isolation due to a number of environmental factors, primarily the loss of physical or mental capacity or the loss of friends and family members (WHO 2016).
It is estimated that around 1 in 5 (19 per cent) of older Australians are socially isolated (Beer et al. 2016). Reduced intergenerational living, greater social and geographical mobility, the rise in one-person households – all of these trends mean that older adults may become more socially isolated. For older people with the resources to choose to live in a retirement community, travel to visit friends or simply to get online, the adverse consequences of loneliness may be minor. Remoteness, poor health and access to transport all exacerbate these risks.
In a community like St Andrews that has been assessed as having an extreme bushfire risk, where both preparing for and recovering from disaster, it is critical that there is strong community cohesion and connectedness for seniors.
How it came together
Lively and Humankind Enterprises are two social enterprises with a vision of a future in which young and older people feel fully valued, included and supported in their communities.
In 2016, Lively and Humankind Enterprises came together to create Tech, Tea and Tales, an intergenerational program that trains and employs young jobseekers to help older people learn how to use technology to connect with friends, family and their interests, and to record their life stories and experiences on film.
In 2018, Nillumbik Shire Council approached Lively and Humankind Enterprises with a view to bringing the program to the Nillumbik community. Together, Nillumbik Shire Council, Lively and Humankind Enterprises applied for funding to the Foundation for Rural and Regional Renewal, and obtained a grant to fund the delivery of a 5-week program at St Andrews Community Centre.
The program objectives were to build community resilience by supporting community-based skill and capability development, redress disadvantage caused by remoteness through increasing community connection and reducing social isolation and loneliness, encourage positive ageing and building an age-friendly community by facilitating intergenerational connection and providing opportunities for lifelong learning for older community members.
An additional objective was to support psychosocial recovery from the Black Saturday Bushfires that affected the community 10 years ago, by creating spaces for people to share their stories and connect over shared experience.
Five young people were recruited, trained and employed as ‘Tech and Story Helpers’ for the program, and 27 older community members participated. Participants were members of the local community area, and were recruited through a range of channels.
Once selected, the helpers took part in a half-day training session run by Lively and Humankind Enterprises staff to equip them for their role.
The training session focused on understanding the context for the Tech, Tea and Tales program and the social challenges it aims to solve, unearthing and challenging assumptions and stereotypes of older community members, and understanding older people’s experiences of using technology, and learning techniques for teaching technology effectively (including introduction to adult learning).
A debrief was held with each participant at the end of the 5-week period to explore their experience in the program and the outcomes they had experienced, and a community celebration was held to share the video stories recorded by participants throughout the program, and to celebrate the learning and connections formed during the program.
At the end of the program, 100 per cent of older participants said they had improved digital skills and understanding, and 94 per cent stated that they felt more confident when using their device. 88 per cent felt less anxious or fearful about using technology, and 93 per cent said that they felt more motivated to continue learning more about technology as a result.
Importantly, 100 per cent of older participants said that they felt valued and respected during their time in the program. A number of participants suggested that the program should be replicated or continued.