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Podcast: How virtual programs are changing the lives of older Australians

Written by Freya Griffin, Communications Partner with integratedliving

Long before the COVID-19 pandemic, integratedliving was responding to virtual alternatives to connect older Australians.

In March 2020 however, as Australia was thrown into lockdown, integratedliving swung into action to keep clients engaged in non-essential programs. How? By connecting senior Australians on Zoom and delivering services online.

In this episode, hear from Wellness Lead, Christine Crockett, and client June, as they share how virtual programs are changing lives.

Transcript

Introduction:
In the spirit of reconciliation, program acknowledges the traditional custodians of country throughout Australia and their connections to land, sea, and community. We pay our respect to their elders, past and present, and extend that respect to all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples today.

Catherine:
Hello and welcome. My name is Katherine Podcast Australia, a community-based health and aged care service provider. I'm thrilled to be welcoming you to our brand new platform, our Live Well Podcast. As the media and digital landscape evolves, we want to be able to offer our clients, team members, and listeners more broadly, a new way to hear from us. Our Live Well podcast is for everyone in our Integratedliving Australia community and for anyone who loves a great story.

Catherine:
Each addition will speak directly with integratedliving Australia staff, our support workers, registered nurses, and people from across the country and hear their stories. Those on the front line who deliver exceptional care to thousands of older Australians in regional, rural, and remote areas.

Freya:
And a very warm welcome to our listeners. We're coming to you from right across Australia actually today. I'm Freya Griffin and I am integratedliving's Communications Partner, and I have the absolute joy to bring fresh stories to you from across the nation at integratedliving. Today, we're focusing on how virtual programs can change lives and the impact of COVID-19 on our service delivery in a traditional sense, and how integrated livings adapted our service delivery into virtual programs and a hybrid model, to be able to make sure that we're delivering our services in a continual fashion that's having as minimal disruption to our client. Now on today's episode, I'm joined by Chris, our Wellness Lead, and Robin our Wellness Center Coordinator, welcome.

Chris:
Thanks Freya. I am the Wellness Lead for integratedliving Australia, and I've had the pleasure to take on this role probably from two years ago, I started as a Wellness Lead. Prior to that, I had the wonderful situation where I was able to be just a Wellness Nurse for three years prior and was really thrown into it. I am from Victoria in the Grampians Region, and five years ago, my manager suggested maybe I would like to have a go at having a try at wellness programs. So, I did that, I collected a group of clients that were over 65 and started a program and it was just amazing, so incredible. So, I saw so many things occur throughout that first program. I had clients that hadn't read a book in years, and then all of a sudden were reading books. They connected with each other, they were helping each other, learning from each other, and it was just an incredible experience.

Chris:
My absolute passion I have to say is Wellness for Independence, I absolutely love it. It gives me such a wonderful, warm fuzzy or a great feeling to see people connect and do well with their health, be empowered by what we teach to grow as people, and learn how to be safe and well at home and yeah. There's so much to it, I could talk for hours.

Freya:
And there's so much to unpack in terms of the journey that we are currently taking to transform the way that we offer our services. So please, Chris, we'll continue this conversation further over episodes to come, but we warmly welcome you and also welcome Robin, our Wellness Center Coordinator. Robin, can you introduce yourself, a bit about your background, your qualifications, and what's drawn you to integratedliving in your current role.

Robin:
Thank you very much for having me, Freya. So, my name's Robin, I'm the Virtual Wellness Coordinator for integratedliving. It's a fairly new role, which is really exciting. My background comes from a fitness industry. I was in the fitness industry for gosh, nine years, and then I took a step away from it for one whole year, and now I'm back into integratedliving doing fitness again, and it's been really exciting. The new role that's come out is ever-changing of course, but it just allows me to connect with people again like yourself Chris, I really enjoy that aspect of working in the fitness industry. You're helping people change their lives every single day, and it's super rewarding, so that's what I really love.

Freya:
Chris, can we throw to you in terms of welcoming those and introducing, I should say the idea of the Wellness for Independence programs, and there are a number that you've just listed in that introduction as well. It's so vast in terms of the services that we offer our clients in centre, but also now in a virtual format. Can you touch on perhaps some of the traditional services that we've now carried across to a hybrid format in a virtual setting and also some of the new programs that are on the radar to be delivered in a virtual mode as well? Responding to the new needs that are emerging while we're working through COVID-19 lockdowns being turned off and turned on when need be and having an opportunity to continue delivering these services in a safe model for our clients.

Chris:
Yeah, sure Freya. Originally, we were running everything face-to-face, which was absolutely brilliant. So, we had clients coming together in a group and we'd have a couple of hours each week over a 16-week period and they'd learn and they'd socialise and they would grow and share stories. It was just really incredible, and they'd learn how to use an iPad. Of course, Covid hit, and all this had to change and we were very lucky that we sort of pulled together and develop this virtual wellness through Zoom and the clients have absolutely thrived on it. Not only are they learning about their health, but they're really developing new pathways to their brain because they're learning how to use Zoom and how to set things up and use the iPad more than ever. Often I find that they come in and they feel a bit overwhelmed, "oh, I can't use an iPad," but believe me by week three or four they're all experts and they're amazing so it's pretty incredible.

Chris:
But yeah, we've always ran quite a few programs in the last few years where memory, digital, low vision, foot and diabetes, cardiac, and nutrition have been very popular. I have just started a Respiratory Wellness program now. We've transferred them all into the virtual mode so we can run them face-to-face or virtually, which is brilliant, and I have just completed with the help of the Allied Health team, a fantastic program for Mind and Body wellness, which I am just busting to get out there. I am now also working hard at the Falls Prevention program as well. So not sure if that's the final heading but it's something to do with falls prevention, and there are many more to come.

Freya:
Robin, I'll throw to you as well because there's of course, a slightly different mode of programs that you offer at the Wellness Center. So interested just to have a bit of a rundown about what programs you're delivering virtually at the moment. Both in the Wellness Center and the Activity Center, if you're comfortable to talk to that as well, and just how it's developed during this time of adapting to COVID-19 restrictions, of course, as well. How are clients finding it, in terms of adapting to the tech, and yeah are there any newish programs that are on the horizon for your team as well?

Robin:
It's been really, I must say I'm sure are a lot of them come from you, Chris. The clients are actually handling this technology thing amazingly. They're doing such a good job considering, you speak to most people, and they say, "I hate technology, I don't want anything to do with it," they've done such a good job and it is pretty challenging so kudos to them of course.

Robin:
The two programs that we're currently running are the Virtual Exercise classes which we use over Zoom, and then the alternative program is our Home Exercise program. Our clients can decide to do both of them or one or the other. It's completely their choice, it's really what they feel comfortable with, if they're not comfortable using Zoom but they still want to exercise, then our Home Exercise program is for them, where it's not necessary to be able to use Zoom or access the internet.

Robin:
So we find that with the classes, it's really good for people who are comfortable using Zoom, but if they're not, we are always there to help troubleshoot with them anyway, but it's just good for that social interaction and that connectedness, especially with so many people still being in lockdown, they can still, they can still see somebody, they can still have a conversation with someone different it's really good to help them that way.

Robin:
The other program that we do have is our Virtual Activities program. That's really for people who, again are just feeling a bit socially isolated, no one to connect with, and maybe don't have any people close by to check in on them, whatever it may be. Maybe they don't even want to do exercise, that's fine too. It has a variety of activities, some of them are Bingo, Trivia Arts and Craft, just a bunch of different activities for them to jump in on and keep their mind busy.

Freya:
Sounds like you're incredibly busy and occupied as it is. I just love that we are delivering a Bingo activity program as well, while we might be delivering services to regions that are standing extended lockdowns and the pubs are closed, for the time being. The Bowls clubs that you can still log into Zoom and connect with your mates and enjoy a round of Bingo. I love that we're facilitating that in our communities and Robin can you touch on the accessibility? You've said that for the most part, our clients are actually really adapting well to the technology, but for those people that may not have access to the resources and iPad or a laptop, or maybe they're just not feeling it in terms of the Zoom program, do they have other options to access these virtual programs?

Robin:
Yeah, absolutely. If people aren't very comfortable using the internet, that's absolutely fine. It's not necessary for them to continue doing exercise. So, we have a Home Exercise program and this is run over the phone. So, it's not necessary to use Zoom, it's not necessary to have the internet rerun this very comfortably for a lot of our clients over the phone. It's an eight-week tailored Exercise program. So, our Exercise Physiologist would do an initial assessment with them and that's just about a half an hour phone call. And then after that, they're able to tailor a program that's specific to the client needs.

Freya:
It really sounds like a partnership approach.

Robin:
Yeah, absolutely.

Freya:
And that's a great segue discussion-wise actually into the way that integratedliving has been recognised this year for its adaption to virtual programs being named Finalist in the HESTA awards earlier this year was huge. We've been named in a few other awards as finalists, especially for our delivery and adaption of virtual programs in the communities. So that speaks volumes but just recently being named Finalists in the Eldercare Ageing Asia awards and International Asia Pacific awards pool is a huge pat on the back for both of your teams, for pioneering these programs, because these particular awards look at the capability of modelling these programs right across the sector. It's not purely about integratedliving pushing the envelope and being advocates for our clients and maintaining that service continuity and connection during difficult times. We're actually being recognised for recreating the mode for future proofing, how we deliver these services.

Freya:
And we specialise of course, in delivering services to people living regionally in rural areas and remote locations. This platform has opened up the scope so wide now for us to be able to welcome even more clients to access these services, who may not have been able to access the centre. Maybe the drive was too long, perhaps there's the whole raft of reasons, why people can't access physical clinic or centres. So, this just opens up the mode hugely so congratulations on behalf of all of us, for the recognition that your teams have received this year for the virtual programs deliveries, and fingers crossed for further promotion and advocacy through this Eldercare program as well. Well done.

Robin:
Thanks, Freya.

Freya:
Now, carrying on from the virtual programs that we run at integratedliving, we are very lucky today to have a very dear client of ours June, join us to talk about how she is accessing the virtual programs from home and any extra support that she received just while she was learning the ropes with this new technology. Welcome, June.

June:
Thank you very much.

Freya:
Now June, first question, how did you go learning the ropes of connecting to the internet and using a smartphone or an iPad to access integratedliving's virtual programs.

June:
I can't remember what year we started in actually, but was before we had the virus, and since the virus, of course, things have changed rapidly, and we are doing it all online. New things to learn so I found you had to learn things or be left behind. You had to embrace the new technology and do the best you could. I have a brother that lives in Ararat and we used to phone one another regularly, but then we discovered it was much more fun if we used our iPads, and now we don't ring one another anymore. We always use the iPad. We always have a face-to-face conversation, we sometimes have morning tea together or afternoon tea.

Freya:
And did you find that using the video functionality makes that connection all the more meaningful versus simply having a telephone conversation?

June:
Yes, it does. I think it's brought myself and my brother closer together because we can see one another. I think it's lovely, and since I had the iPad, it's got lots of features. I'm a person that likes to travel and because of my age, I'm past traveling really, but I'm able to travel with my iPad and places that I never dreamed I'd be able to come and see again, so...

Freya:
Where's the latest place that you've visited through your iPad June?

June:
... well one place I would love to go and I've seen it on my iPad is to Broome to see the Stairway to the Moon that they have every year when the moon shines on the water and at a certain time you have it like a stairway up to the moon and I'd like to see all those sort of things and I've been able to see them on the iPad, which has been great.

Freya:
Absolutely magical.

June:
And I've been able to go for walks along the beach with a friend that lives up in Yeppoon in Queensland and it's been lovely.

Freya:
How is that facilitated June going for a virtual walk along the beach up in Queensland?

June:
Well, it was lovely. I mean, I almost feel I'm there.

Chris:
And I think June that's been really terrific because at least like you were saying to Freya earlier, how wonderful that we've been able to just keep connected and still learn about health. I think we've just been so very lucky to have that opportunity through the virtual means of using Zoom.

June:
Yeah, I think so, and really and truly, I've never known a year to go so fast because I've always been so active and even though I'm not going out or anything, but with the Zoom and everything, I've had a really wonderful time.

Chris:
So, June you've actually had plenty of purpose by the sound of it. And I think that's so important to have purpose in life, have a reason to get out of bed every day, something to look forward to.

June:
Yeah, I think that's the thing. I think some people will just decide "we won't go out and that's it," and they just stay in the house in the four walls and that's no good. You need to get out and about and that's what people are missing, I think, and unless they engage in new technology and do manage all these things, and take advantage of what integratedliving has to offer, they're really going to suffer. They need to embrace the new technology and learn all they can. You're never too old to learn, I'm sure.

Chris:
That is so true June, and you know what I always say in my classes is knowledge is power, and it doesn't matter how old you are and how smart you are and what you've learned through your life, you never stop learning and things change, and things update, and things get better. So, often someone might say, but I have diabetes, I know all about that, but I will often say to them "yeah, but there's new developments, and new knowledge and new ways of looking after yourself," and often they don't realise, and then they do our programs and they learn so much and sometimes we might have a couple of different programs. I know a lot of people like yourself have done 2, 3, 4, or even five of the programs, and some of the information, there's a couple of things that might be similar in some of the programs, but it's consolidation. It helps people learn and consolidate the information, so they understand what helps them be healthy or helps empower them to look after their own health.

Chris:
Having the opportunity to have a go and be offered something, I guess something like our programs. It's getting it out there and making people aware that it exists and that it is really, really beneficial. At the end of the day, it's being able to find people and give them the right information so they can become part of what we do.

June:
Well, integrationliving's really helped me. Best integratedliving courses, they've helped me such a lot during the virus. I think my life is very busy and I'm not traveling out in the wide world, but I'm traveling through my iPad and with the help of integratedliving. So made me quite happy, it's given me a purpose in life, I think.

Freya:
I think you have inspired so many people. Thank you so much for your time. You are an inspiration just knowing that the work that we do at integrated living is making a difference to you and the broader community, especially during these very challenging Covid times, what an amazing story to share. Thank you so much, June.

June:
Well, thank you. I've enjoyed being with you.

Conclusion:
If you, a family member or friend is interested in learning more about integratedliving Australia services, head to our website at www.integratedliving.org.au, or call us on 1300 782 896. Or follow us on social media by searching integratedliving Australia. We look forward to you joining us for the next episode of the Live Well Podcast.

 

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