Published
19 July 2019

A group of nearly two dozen Mandarin-speaking older people are realising friendship is at the touch of their fingertips as they chat and swap stories on their iPads.

A group of nearly two dozen Mandarin-speaking older people are realising friendship is at the touch of their fingertips as they chat and swap stories on their ipads.

The WeChat Group has been rolled out at the Brotherhood of St Laurence Coolibah Centre, championed by its coordinator Marica Cindric.

Now the group has graduated from the WeChat learning program and is using the multi-purpose messaging, social media and a mobile app to share photos, videos, stories of their lives and snippets of Australian and international news.

Marica says the participants embraced learning new technology and are now reaping the benefits.

“Many of them are lonely, and their isolation is exacerbated by their limited skills in English.

“This connects them to with one another. They suddenly are part of a 23-member group with members chattering away about this and that in their own language, and sharing photos, memories and news.”

And according to Marica, the chattering starts early in the morning and goes long into the night.

“Often evenings can be particularly lonely when you live on your own. This enables them to not only swap stories, but also feelings. Sharing helps – and as the members’ friendship grows, so they are able to increasingly support one another.”

Marica says proof that the program is working can be measured by the width of their smiles.

“It’s opened up a whole new world for them,” she says simply.

“It has been wonderful we were able to give them the tools to learn new technology and a new way of communicating.”

WeChat graduate Yusheng Huang describes the program as “a game changer.”

“I’m having fun,” he says. ”I’m never lonely anymore.”

Members of the group also share details about what’s on at the Coolibah Centre and make plans to catch up at the cosy home away from home where there is always something interesting to do.

The Coolibah Centre offers a range of activities including exercise classes, cooking, gardening, meals, table tennis, walking group, art and craft, cross-cultural singing and iPad training.

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