Remove hurdles: digital participation for everyone
But simply providing Internet is not enough. Access to the WiFi must be simple and, above all, barrier-free. The first hurdles don’t just stand in the way of online banking or downloading a meeting app, but rather when logging into the WiFi portal. In doing so, it is important to conserve human resources and not overwhelm already overburdened caregivers with additional tasks. We technicians in particular often hear the first question when parents or grandparents visit: “Can you help me with my cell phone?” “Why can’t I get on the Internet?” or “I don’t know the password anymore, what should I do?” It is similar to the staff in retirement homes, but they are not IT professionals. A big step has already been taken with a simple way of granting residents access to the Internet, which also takes the concerns of local system administrators seriously and is transparent to them.
The technical education of citizens from a certain age increases with every year. The term Silver Surfer refers to a generation that has already learned to use notebooks, tablets and smartphones, but the constant change with updates, new interfaces, protocols, authentication methods, etc. can still overwhelm them. In addition, there are often poor eyesight or poor concentration, and motor skills can also play a role from a certain age, so that people sometimes complain that everything is “too complicated“, “too fast” or simply “cannot be understood“.
Therefore, offers have to be created to promote the development of digital skills, ensure readability and break down barriers or keep them as low as possible. There are already initiatives in some institutions, and non-profit associations have made participation in digital life for older people a priority and offer programs. One example is the association Wege aus der Einsamkeit (Ways out of loneliness). They brought a project into life, where explanatory videos on how to use smartphones are regularly posted online and courses are offered – at these times when a visit on site is not possible, of course via Zoom.
By the way: Not only residents and patients benefit from easy-to-use WiFi. While in too many facilities the patient’s data are still recorded on paper or written down on a notepad and entered in an electronic database afterwards, others appreciate the electronic patient file wherever available, to be filled in directly in the respective room via tablet. It is clear, however, that this data in particular belongs to the highly sensitive class and is particularly worth protecting. But even very private activities of the elderly on the Internet should take place in a protected setting that does not leave them completely defenceless against the risks of the digital world.
Special requirements to the senior WiFi
That leads us back to the beginning: Simply providing WiFi for everyone is by far not enough. Internet access has to be regulated, and this requires comprehensive advice and support – ideally from a long-term local partner who relies on European solutions. Let’s briefly summarize the challenges:
- Establish or expand the WiFi infrastructure
- Make access clear and easy, yet safe and regulated
- Comprehensive advice and support for institutions
- Provide simple interfaces for admins too
- Ensure GDPR compliance
- Ensure long-term availability
Opportunities for integrators and resellers
The moment couldn’t be more favorable. Since digitization is only just beginning in this area, there are extensive projects ahead and there is a lot to be done. Governments also know this and are putting together a wide range of public funding packages. As already mentioned, there are 12,500 care facilities in Germany alone. These include many nursing homes, residential homes and senior citizens’ residences that still require the entire infrastructure for comprehensive WiFi, from Internet access to servers, switches and access points to the login page.
With IACBOX we deliver the right software for it: The IACBOX Silver Surfer edition – a module that specifically covers the needs in these facilities. Residents can use the Internet safely, barrier-free and legally compliant via WiFi. With a separate SurfLAN, the residents’ sensitive data remain completely protected, online access is secured and reserved for authorized persons. The available bandwidth is adjustable, if desired a separate policy can be set up for visitors or employees with private or company-owned devices. Options for restricting and blocking certain services are available as well as protection against unwanted content. Building areas such as living quarters, lobbies, lounges etc. can be provided with a separate login page and / or different login methods via VLAN or SSID.
The included templates for the login page – as barrier-free as possible – take into account eye-friendly contrast for better readability and a simplified page layout with input fields with a clearly recognizable purpose so that the residents can use them independently. The role of the admin user who should create or manage new access for residents has also been considered. Supplied templates and pre-sets make the overview easier. In addition, there are clear, natural language instructions and “how-to’s” for low-threshold access to the administrative tasks of a WiFi portal – for satisfied residents and stress-elieved staff.
Tell us about your experiences and the special challenges in this area and send us an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.