Video hobbyist Audrey Bowles

Making short videos online is helping Victorian seniors connect with people with similar passions

It’s not often that a technology training course can move a person to tears. But when Audrey Bowles completed the Social Seniors workshops at her local library in Echuca last year, she soon became aware that the program had impacted on her and her husband’s lives in quite a remarkable way.

‘For me to be able to put some funny photos and film clips of my granddaughters’ antics into a little video to share with my family, was wonderful,’ says Audrey. ‘But later on, I was able to create a tribute with photos and music for my dear mother-in-law’s memorial … that was really the most lovely thing to be able to do.’

The positive impacts of Social Seniors have been felt far and wide in Victoria since the program was piloted at libraries in Campaspe Shire and the City of Yarra in August last year. In the 12 months since, the program has been delivered at more than 30 libraries – three-quarters of them in regional locations – and reached over 200 senior Victorians.

Stories to share

Co-funded by Telstra and the Department of Health and Human Services, Social Seniors has set itself apart by helping seniors learn basic tech and communication skills and introducing them to some life-enriching online tools. One really useful tool is the video-editing app, Adobe Premiere Clip, which allows even the least tech-savvy user to create ‘digital stories’ from film clips captured on their smartphone or tablet.

For seniors like Audrey, who is 62, this has been positively life-changing. ‘Initially, I was just really excited to be able to combine my photos with music. But the app was so easy to use and the trainers were so helpful, to be honest it all became a bit addictive!

‘My husband are I are not huge Facebookers, but it was really great learning how to create different groups for sharing photos and films – and the trainers were very focused on privacy and safety, which also helped us understand how to control who we are sending stuff to.’

Social Seniors workshops usually run over three morning workshops for three weeks. In the first, participants learn how to create a social media profile and to set up groups with friends or people with similar interests. In the second, they begin to plan and film a two-minute ‘mini film’ on a subject of personal interest. In the final workshop, they complete their film, add a voiceover and learn how to share it with their new networks.

Common interests

The experience is much more practical than traditional digital literacy courses, providing the participants with a way to record their personal interests – and potentially to use them to find and connect with like-minded individuals.

‘This has been a hugely empowering program for seniors in Campaspe,’ says Jenny Mustey, who manages the Shire’s five libraries. ‘For the 80 to 90 per cent of people who took the learning on board, they went away wanting to know more and to continue meeting up with the other participants after the sessions ended.

‘It’s given them the understanding and the confidence to do so much more online, and to look around and connect with groups with similar interests. It’s much broader than walking and gardening groups too; I’ve heard participants talk about birdwatching groups and four-wheel-drive groups!&rsquo

Public Libraries Victoria’s President, Chris Buckingham, says Social Seniors offers a perfect addition to the support already being offered by libraries to seniors seeking greater digital know-how.

‘We love it when people come to their library asking for help with new technology,’ says Chris. ‘This program enables our staff to provide seniors with the skills they need to successfully engage with digital technology.

‘It’s a joy to see people who were previously intimidated by technology embrace it and use it to its full potential.’