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Use of the Modern Technologies in Care Demonstrated at Seminar

On 13 August, new and modern options in senior care and increasing the quality of life of the cared-for were discussed at the seminar “Digital Technologies for Care Workers to Improve the Quality of Life of Senior Citizens” organised jointly by LIKTA and LSA. The seminar visitors were demonstrated technologies that are already being used in everyday care work – tablets, security buttons and mobile communication buttons that looked like watches from James Bond films.

Information on activities within the framework of European Projects Carer+ and Ageing Well, as well as on fostering e-skills and other support initiatives for the senior citizens in Latvia was provided in the framework of the seminar. More than 50 participants from Latvian local governments, libraries, non-governmental organisations, ministries in charge and ICT field participated in the seminar. The area specialists discussed the most suitable solutions for the situation in Latvia and set directions for the future development.

The seminar participants were introduced to the pilot project Carer+ aimed at developing knowledge and skills in the information and communication technologies both of those who are employed in the care sector and the elderly people in care, as well as introducing new and easy-to-use Internet-based technology tools adapted for the needs of the elderly people. In Latvia, the pilot programme Carer+ is implemented by the Samaritan Association of Latvia (LSA) and the Latvian Information and Communications Technology Association (LIKTA). 40 social carers from Riga, mainly aged between 56 and 61, and 40 seniors in care, as well 10 carers and 10 care recipients in the regions of Latvia are involved in the Carer+ project. The idea of the project is to improve the quality of the everyday life, communication and active living at home for the persons in care, at the same time creating the sense of belonging in society. Already from early summer the carers are helping 50 seniors to master their digital skills using tablet PCs. The seniors admit that the biggest benefits of the project are access to the information, raising self-confidence and reducing the sense of loneliness and social exclusion. "I believe that is a wonderful result, and I am truly proud about these people who at the age of 60, 70 and even 80 are ready to overcome the digital gap separating them from full-fledged life,” tells a carer Rudite Barda from Latgale suburb.

Carer+ breaks several stereotypes and myths that at senior age people become inactive and cannot learn anything new. This project helps seniors to 'connect' to the world, hope and light. The seniors participating in the project understand that mastering modern technologies is important in order to look for common interests and reduce the gap between generations. The most frequent answer to the question on how seniors use a computer after the training course is – searching for information on the Internet, using social portals (e.g., draugiem.lv) and playing PC games. For seniors, mastering computer skills has created a sense of safety, that he is not alone, excluded, forgotten and that he can write about his problem and express his opinion in social networks. He knows that he will be heard and receive a reply, that his problem will immediately reach the carer's inbox. The pilot programme Carer+ is being implemented till spring 2015 in 5 countries – Latvia, France, Romania, Spain and Italy, engaging in total 500 care workers in the project. Considering the pilot project results, at the end of the project it is planned to develop guidelines and recommendations for the implementation of such type of training throughout Europe.

The seminar visitors were introduced to the partnership network AgeingWell facilities for improving the quality of life of the elderly using ICT facilities and solutions. AgeingWell partnership network, based on the cooperation between 16 EU countries, offers information exchange and the summary of best practices, as well as enhances cooperation for the improvement of the seniors' quality of life.

Liga Bite, Public Relations Project Manager at the company Lattelecom told about the successful and sustainable project “Connect, Latvia!” which is attracting more and more new interested people, enthusiasts and seniors who want to master computer skills. According to Liga Bite, this knowledge is used both by seniors who have reached the retirement age and do not want to fall behind the contemporary pace of life, and Latvian population at the pre-retirement age for whom computer skills are essential in order to still be competitive at the labour market.

A project from the city of Ventspils – “Inclusive Introduction of Integrated care” (INCA) that has just been initiated in cooperation with Ventspils City Social Service and Northern Kurzeme Regional Hospital, was also presented at the seminar. It envisages developing tele-medicine, by creating a health monitoring system for preventing crisis situations with chronic illnesses and recurrent hospitalisation. The project is being implemented within the framework of the European Commission Information and Communication Technologies Support Programme, involving 4 countries in the project – Spain, Cyprus, Croatia, and Latvia.