Cybercrimes, privacy and personal security are important issues for everyone in the 21st century, none more so than for older people whose online confidence and familiarity can be patchy at the best of times.

The United Nations has declared ‘Digital Equity for All Ages’ is its International Day of Older Persons theme in 2021, and Eurobodalla Labor for Council candidates have committed to work towards supporting the need for safe online access for the shire’s older residents.

“The  International Day of Older Persons  provides us with a wonderful opportunity to celebrate, honour, support, and encourage the older members of our shire,” mayoral candidate David Grace said today. “Online participation by older people is even more important in these COVID times where personal contact with family and friends has been restricted, and online ZOOM, Skype or Facetime sessions have been, for some, their only meaningful relationship with the people who matter to them most.

“But this expanded use of computers, tablets and smartphones has brought new risks; cybercrimes and misinformation threaten the human rights, privacy, and security of older people,” he said.

Eurobodalla Shire Council’s (ESC) region is home to the sixth largest concentration of seniors across Australia with 13,000 local residents aged over 65 — the highest number in this group, by percentage, in any NSW local government area (30.5% aged 65+ and 12.8% aged 75+). And with life expectancy increasing, more and more baby boomers (born after 1946) will begin to enter the 75+ cohort this decade, adding greater demands on council’s services and programs while potentially adding to the long list of online victims of scams and privacy breaches.

“The rapid speed of adoption of digital technology has outpaced policy and governance at all levels,” Mr Grace said “and naivety with what appear to be endearing and engaging text messages, emails and social media chats has led to older Eurobodalla residents falling victim to digital criminals who in 2019  fleeced almost 3 million Australians of nearly $2 billion.

“Victims across the nation recovered only $389 million of that according to the Australian Institute of Criminology.

“While it might seem challenging to consider how ESC might have a role to play countering these risks, it actually is very simple: whether it’s beginner computer classes in our libraries, online safety sessions conducted by U3A in our community facilities, or  council-coordinated ZOOM drop-ins to share updates on malware protection software and tips on how to detect spam and scams, Eurobodalla Labor for Council is committed, if elected to council on 4 December, to improve our older residents’ online confidence,” Mr Grace added.

International Day of Older Persons is also an opportunity to remind the community that ageism — the stereotyping and discrimination on the basis of a person’s age  — is an awful practice which can have serious impacts on older people.

“For older people, ageism is an everyday challenge,” Mr Grace said. “Often overlooked for employment, restricted from social services and stereotyped in the media, ageism marginalises and excludes older people in their communities.

“Aged care workers and carers – paid and unpaid – also deserve our thanks today from everyone in the community for their work. Residential aged services employ more than 550 locals, and as many again are employed across the nine aged care facilities from Bateman’s Bay to Narooma.

“Many Eurobodalla residents care for their elderly family members  including with the support of ESC funded services connecting them to community, promoting their independence and supporting their health and well-being.

Eurobodalla Labor for Council applauds the continuing commitment to providing support for older people through community services involving a mix of ESC, not-for-profit agencies and commercial enterprises.

“In council, we will not only continue with this strategy, but also reach out to the community for feedback, ideas and suggestions on what could be done better through the establishment of a new community services committee specifically to address the needs of the shire’s large and growing cohort aged 65 and older; if anyone knows what’s needed, it’s the people in this age group as well as their carers.

Labor’s candidates in the 4 December local government elections are: for mayor, David Grace from Broulee; and as councillors, Maureen Searson from Batehaven, Matthew Findlay from Batemans Bay, Claire McAsh from Moruya, Deirdre Russack from Narooma, and Jack Egan from Rosedale.

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