A Government funding boost will help improve digital access for older people living in Whanganui District.
Office for Seniors Te Tari Kaumātua has approved a grant of $15,000 for the designing interventions and support for digital inclusion proposal devised by Whanganui District Council's connected community adviser Jo Buckingham.
Office for Seniors director Diane Turner said keeping older people connected to their communities was even more important now because of Covid-19.
"The lockdowns over this past year have impacted the lives of many older people. Community organisations have played a critical role in supporting seniors during this period," she said.
"Projects will help with the recovery and strengthen community connections for the future."
Te Tari Kaumātua works to promote the inclusion and contribution of older people in community life and support communities to prepare for an ageing population.
Buckingham said she had consulted locally with Age Concern and SeniorNet as well as looking at the Digital Steps programmes for the proposal.
The council is conducting a survey on digital access and confidence in the community and Buckingham said the results help to clarify where the funding can be used most effectively.
"Age Concern held some very successful intergenerational sessions with their members and students from Whanganui City College. That's something we could look at extending when Covid restrictions allow and mobile classrooms are another thing we have looked at," Buckingham said.
Manager Michelle Malcolm said Age Concern had also conducted its own survey of members to gauge what the most important needs were.
"There are so many more things that people need to go online for and I did notice a difference during the Covid lockdown last year compared to the one in 2020.
"People were a lot more confident with using digital devices but it's not much good if they don't have them. It can be expensive to set yourself up with a device and pay for the ongoing Wi-Fi costs."
Malcolm said the downloading and printing of Covid vaccination passes had posed challenges for a lot of Age Concern members.
"We helped 87 people sort out their passes and scanning the Covid barcodes can be problematic as well.
"I look forward to working with Jo when the council survey is completed. We need safe, community-based digital facilities where people can go to use devices and get support."
SeniorNet Whanganui chairman Terry Dowdeswell said its classes were on hold during the Covid-19 red light phase.
"We are doing Q and A sessions via Zoom on Fridays but not everyone can get online to join those," he said.
"The need is certainly there and it is not only older people missing out on digital inclusion. I really encourage people to complete the council survey because it will allow us to better see where the gaps are."
To complete the survey visit whanganui.govt.nz and complete online or download and print a hard copy. Paper copies can be requested from Whanganui District Council at 101 Guyton St or by calling 06 349 0001. Participants have the chance to win one of several prizes donated by Tuatahi First Fibre. Prizes include one of three tablets and 12 Prezzy Cards to the value of $25 each. The survey closes at 5pm on Tuesday, February 22.