Teresa Savage, a consultant in LGBTIQ+ ageing and health and our Project Manager Roundtable and Digital Health, looks at how the digital divide is affecting older LGBTI people's access to healthcare
Earlier this year LHA held the 4th National Roundtable on LGBTI Ageing and Aged Care 2022. The event was attended by 34 participants from all Australian states and territories, including older LGBTI community representatives, Silver Rainbow partners (who deliver the Silver Rainbow program on behalf of LHA), key ageing and aged care organisations and observers from relevant government departments.
The Roundtable developed a series of recommendations aimed at improving the experience of ageing and aged care for older LGBTI people. The discussion regularly referred to the growing use of digital and technological systems to access health and aged care, and the ways in which this presents significant barriers for disadvantaged older LGBTI people. Beyond health and aged care, participants also described the very real exclusion from many aspects of contemporary life caused by the switch to online services.
The self-reported barriers older LGBTIQ+ people face when accessing technology include:
- Inability to evaluate complex phone and internet plans and low-cost affordable plans preventing full technology access
- The prohibitive cost of smartphones and computer hardware
- Difficulty filling in forms, including reluctance to disclose personal or financial details online
- Inability to identify scams or misinformation
- Inability to connect to publicly available wifi
- Lack of awareness of accessibility tools
- Lack of awareness of free resources, podcasts etc
Recommendation 26 from the Roundtable identifies specific issues and urges LHA to work with partners to address the challenges of digital delivery of services in all aspects of older LGBTI people’s lives, including:
- increasing access to computing equipment and internet services
- providing opportunities for IT skills development for older LGBTI people
- increasing access to technology for residents in aged care settings
- ensuring privacy and building trust in electronic systems
- leveraging the potential benefits of My Health Record (MHR)
- delivering mental health and Community Visitors Scheme (CVS) services through technology
These recommendations have been built into workplans for the coming year.