For Christina Ntaliani, the great reward is watching the joy on her elderly students’ faces when they receive their first response from a grandchild to their first message that they successfully sent on their smart phones.

“It is exciting when we do a lesson and I tell them to send a message to a loved one. When they receive that first reply, their faces light up with joy,” Ms Ntaliani said.

“Often the young ones will not pick up the phone, but they will respond to a message. In this way the elderly are able to become a part of their children’s and grandchildren’s lives and can follow them through social media platforms,” she said.

Ms Ntaliani is a digital literacy instructor running courses in Greek under the Australian government’s Be Connected program and the Good Things Foundation to help elderly Greek-Australians to use their smart phones and other devices so that they can stay in touch with their families.

Many of the students bought their first smart phone the day before the course began.

READ MORE: Dementia Australia welcomes $1 million grant to keep elderly electronically connected

“When I received funding from Be Connected to do the courses in November, I decided that I would teach groups of six to 10 people per course and would offer weekly two-hour-long lessons over six weeks.

“When they start out, many in my groups have no idea how to use technology, they usually only know how to answer the phone. I teach them how to use their phones and then go into showing them the internet.

“I show them how to access YouTube, Facebook as well as communication apps like Viber, Messenger, WhatsApp and Facetime. They learn how to download apps, get rid of them and how to sign-in to them.

Ms Ntaliani said that helping her students get into contact with their families through the technology helped them to feel less isolated and more in touch with their loved ones.

Ms Ntaliani was born in Melbourne but grew up in Greece. She would often return to Melbourne on holidays and spent a year at La Trobe University studying English.

She returned to Greece and worked in the media and in photography.

“I was a photographer, worked with numerous design programs and also did web design over 27 years.”

She returned with her son to Australia in 2012 while he studied at Melbourne University. She qualified as a teacher aid and worked at St John’s College in Melbourne. She is currently studying for Certificate IV in Training and Assessment to help the elderly to use technology to stay in touch. She is also studying for a diploma in counselling.

“The lessons are face to face. I go where I am needed,” said Ms Ntaliani.

A Swinburne University of Technology social impact report has revealed that the Be Connected program has engaged over 880,000 Australians since 2016, more than double the originally envisaged number of 300,000 Australians.

♦To find out more about her courses, call Christina Ntaliani on 0451 246 773. Visit the Be Connected website to find out more about the service or to find a local network partner.