Technology and the telephone will play a major role in supporting older people during the coronavirus outbreak, as many are forced into isolation and cut off from social activities.
Ballarat resident Janette Dalglieshhas shared the story of one aged care volunteer who is doing everything she can to ensure her mother and other residents can continue to enjoy the benefits of regular choir sessions during this challenging time.
She said the volunteer choir director, who usually runs sessions once a week, has been investigating how to run it online, so the participants can continue to stay involved and join via video conferencing on their iPads and tablets.
Many of the participants do not own an iPad, so the choir director is purchasing tablets for around six of the residents.
I think this story is a really good reminder there are so many good things happening if we remember to look for them.Janette Dalgliesh
Ms Dalgliesh said being a part of the choir meant so much to her mother, who was a soprano and met her husband singing in a choir in the 1950s.
"When coronavirus first made the news the aged care facility implemented a reduction in group activities to keep social distancing and eventually everyone was spending all their time in their room," she said.
"What I loved about this story was the fact the choir director was willing to buy the tablets. She is a very generous person.
"We know how important singing is for mental and physical well-being, but also for breathing. It has so many benefits for people."
Ms Dalgliesh said continuing the choir through video conferencing would help her mother feel connected, during a time when visitors to the facility were limited and residents were spending most of their time alone in their rooms.
"I think it will help her to feel connected and will give her an opportunity to do the things she loves, which is to sing," she said.
"I think this story is a really good reminder there are so many good things happening if we remember to look for them."
Ms Dalgliesh said another story from her mother's aged care facility was that many residents who lived through World War II in England were obsessing about bananas during the coronavirus pandemic.
"During the war, it wasn't for many years bananas and other exotic fruits went back to Britain," she said.
"They have had that experience before. It gives them perspective during this crisis."
Council of the Ageing Victoria said many older Australians were feeling scared and anxious about being in isolation and contracting coronavirus.
Chief executive Tina Hogarth-Clarke said COTA Victoria was receiving daily phone calls to its helpline and information lines from older people and their family members who were distressed, experiencing anxiety and were fearful for the future.
"We've all become aware of what we need to do to reduce the incidence of COVID-19, but it's important to support people experiencing anxiety and to think creatively about how we can stay connected and how we can practice self-care," she said.
Whilst improvement in technology provides online contact and access to face to face opportunities via mobile phones, tablets and computers, research by the eSafety Commission revealed 57 per cent of Australians aged 70 or older have no digital literacy.
Ms Hogarth-Clarke said the telephone, either fixed or mobile, was the easiest and most accessible means for regular contact with older Australians.
"The sound of a friendly understanding voice on the end of the phone should never be underrated in such times of stress which many isolated older Australians are experiencing," she said.
"Given the expected ongoing COVID-19 health emergency, COTA Victoria is urging family, friends and neighbours to make regular reassuring phone calls to check on and boost the spirits of family, friends and neighbours whilst also checking on their health."
The COTA Information helpline,1300 13 50 90, will continue to operate during the coronavirus pandemic Monday to Friday from 9.30am to 4pm and can provide information for people who cannot access it online.
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