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Department of Premier and Cabinet

Finding Out: Supporting older people to access information

Two older people browsing in a library 

Accessing information has been identified as an area of concern in previous consultations with older people, and for this reason the Finding out: accessing the right information at the right time project was identified as an essential part of the Tasmanian Government’s Inclusive Ageing: Tasmania 2012-2014 Strategy.  This research looks at insights and experiences of older Tasmanians to identify issues around accessing the right information at the right time.

The key objective of the Inclusive Ageing: Tasmania 2012-2014 Strategy, Finding out: accessing the right information at the right time project was to improve access to information in order to enable older people to remain independent and socially connected, and to reduce the risk of becoming socially excluded.

Research 

In order to achieve this objective, older people via a survey and in focus groups:

  • What information do you want and need to know about?
  • Where do you currently find out about these things?
  • What are the barriers to finding this information? and
  • How can these barriers be overcome?

From the 559 surveys that were completed and returned from across the state, and the feedback from the 67 focus group attendees, we know that older Tasmanians want to be able to find out about ways to stay living independently – whether it be for:

  • gardening
  • home maintenance
  • cleaning or shopping assistance
  • ways to help to stay healthy, or deal with health issues
  • participating in social activities.

People are also seeking financial advice about pensions, government payments, superannuation, investments, and concession entitlements.

Many also want to know how to participate in the digital space – to use computer, phone and internet technology competently.  Older Tasmanians recognise that increasingly technology is becoming the main tool for finding the information that they seek.

Multiple Barriers to finding information 

Unfortunately, older people are encountering multiple barriers to finding information. There are difficulties with communication, both written and verbal. There are problems with physical access to, and use of, services and activities.

The findings show that technology presents its own challenges, from computer literacy to internet access and mobile phone use. As expected, mobile phone and internet usage is less common in the older age groups of our participants (75+ years), while a home land line is still frequently in use. In addition, issues of poor network coverage compound barriers to accessing information, and assistance in an emergency.

The cost of new technology, mobile phones, transport and some services for many older people also act as barriers to social connectedness.

Social isolation and exclusion 

Perhaps of greatest concern is the finding that people are struggling with issues of self confidence and isolation. Social exclusion causes and compounds existing barriers to information.

Finding out demonstrates an existing generational divide that is not only digital or technological, but one that is also, unquestionably, social.

Solutions


Finding out contains a range of solutions to overcome barriers, which create problems of social and digital exclusion. Older people who participated in the research made simple, practical suggestions to overcome barriers regarding:

  • font sizes
  • phone manner
  • clear language instructions
  • face-to-face service options

Older people  put forward ideas for improving access to social activities, such as increasing transport options, local activities and library services. Innovative suggestions to enable the easier use of, and access to, technology were also made. These include a home-based service to assist people in ongoing learning about their internet, computer and mobile phone. There may also be opportunities for intergenerational learning and teaching opportunities.

The Report