Tablets for older Limerick citizens to help combat social isolation

  • Acorn Tablets Age Friendly Limerick
Pictured during a workshop hosted by Limerick City and County Council are Claire O'Gorman, Carmel Wilmott and Joan Curtin, all from Newcastle West, Co. Limerick. (Pic: Diarmuid Greene)

More than 30 older people from across County Limerick have been presented with special tablets as part of a programme to reduce incidents of social isolation and open up a new world of communication.

Age Friendly Limerick, which is co-ordinated by Limerick City and County Council, in partnership with Cliffrun Media are delivering the project aimed at reducing levels of social isolation among older people, through the use of the Acorn Tablet.

The Acorn is a specialised tablet, tailored to address the needs of seniors in a closed secure network. It opens up a world of relevant online content for seniors, encouraging users to engage and interact at both social and commercial level. Its design is built around five content and application pillars: Independence, Health, Finance, Communications and Security.

The interface has clean lines, is simple to navigate, provides easy access to a help button, and provides remote technical assistance when required. A user can start with only one or two apps loaded and over time, additional elements can be added according to the users individual preferences.

The idea is that by becoming connected to what’s going on in their area, older people will venture out, for example, to a meeting in the local community centre, or they can ask for a lift to a hospital/ doctor’s appointment, do their online banking, or pay a bill. They will also be able to Skype their children living abroad who have the Acorn Companion App downloaded to their smart phone.

A workshop has been hosted by Limerick City and County Council at which the 30 older people from across the county have been provided with their tablet and given instructions on how to use it.

A major element of this project will be engagement between the older people and Transition Year students from Desmond College in Newcastle West.

Five intergenerational workshops will connect old and young and provide an opportunity for the younger people to support the older people in the use of technology.

Deputy Mayor of the City and County of Limerick Cllr Michael Collins said: “I am delighted to welcome this project today spearheaded by Age Friendly Limerick. In a world, which is becoming more technology driven, it is important that we support and encourage our older citizens in embracing the digital world. It is fantastic that we are using technology to help make people fell less isolated. I’ve no doubt all those involved will gain something from it and I wish them all every success”

Anne Rizzo, Programme Manager with Age Friendly Limerick said: “The Acorn is a very user friendly tablet, designed to open up a world of digital services for older people and is aimed at encouraging social inclusion, putting people in contact with others in their community and helping them to avail of services and information not otherwise easily accessible to them.”

“There will be ongoing evaluation over the course of the trial period with participants having the option to keep the tablet at the end of the trial period and taking on the internet costs themselves.”

Funding has been provided by the Department of Community and Rural Affairs, covering the cost of the tablet, including sim card and technical backup for the duration of the programme trial period.

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