Good tech times ahead: Helping older neighbours in the digital world

At Liverpool Cares, we’re continuing to support older neighbours with digital technology, helping to improve literacy, confidence and online skills. We’re utilising the digital expertise of our younger neighbour network, creating spaces where older neighbours feel relaxed, supported and connected - both in person and online - and can hang out with their younger neighbours and learn something new over a cup of tea.

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In Age UK’s 2020 report ‘Not like riding a bike: Why some older people stop using the internetthey reported that 3.4 million people aged over 65 have never used the internet, and that there are a further half a million older people who have used it in the past but not recently.

We know that COVID-19 has perpetuated this digital divide, with lockdown encouraging everybody to stay home and keep their distance, along with the temporary closure of local spaces and places where people could come together for support - often community centres and libraries. These spaces are used to seek out information and to connect with others, and their closure over the past year has had a deeply felt negative impact on neighbours across the city.

Liverpool Cares had always run monthly technology workshops, but due to COVID-19 restrictions we’d transitioned - instead running tech sessions online and over the phone with older neighbours. Though it might’ve felt strange at first, our neighbours quickly adapted, and many of our younger neighbours found the time to support their older neighbours with building their digital skills through regular phone calls or, later, Zoom calls.

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Danny and Denise are just one example of such a pair. Denise has been keen for a while to transfer her extensive CD collection onto her laptop, to preserve it and to be able to listen to it more easily. Denise would also love to be able to download the photos from her phone onto her laptop for safe keeping. Following two, hour-long online support sessions from Danny, Denise now can successfully transfer music and photos onto her laptop - something she has never had the confidence to do successfully before.

Thank you so much for introducing me to photos and music on my laptop and photo - it's like magic! I really appreciate your patience.”    

These sessions have been really helpful in supporting many older neighbours to get onto Zoom and access our online programmes to help them feel more connected in their homes, but also highlighted how many online skills our older neighbours would love to know more about - if given the chance. Luckily, due to the easing of restrictions, we’ve now been able to transition back to offering technology support in person as well as over the phone - through regular, technology workshops on our social clubs programme.

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This is why we were delighted to partner up with House of Memories at National Museums Liverpool (NML) and their Connect My Memories project - a tablet loan service designed to support isolated older people in the communities, to help them form new digital skills, connections and interests. 

With this new partnership we combined the learning from our previous technology sessions, as well as the needs from our network, and ran a small practical workshop in December with older neighbours who had previously expressed an interest in learning how to use a digital device to become more confident online. At the workshop we paired older and younger neighbours to work together on simple tasks - including getting an email address set up, and downloading Zoom -  using the digital devices that have been loaned out via NML. Some of these neighbours have now gone on to take their own loaned devices home with them, and are continuing their digital skill building with us. 

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For example, we met George (91) at the Liverpool Irish Centre over six months ago, and got chatting to him - George was keen to get stuck into Liverpool Cares’ free Social Clubs programme, and was interested to hear more about the virtual social clubs held over Zoom. Though George didn’t have a digital device, we encouraged him to get involved with ‘Project iPad’, so that he he could access our clubs and become more confident with using a digital device. George said he’d be “keen to give it a go”!

Following some initial training and his first face-to-face technology workshop earlier this month, George has quickly gotten to grips with the device, putting his sudoku skills into practice with online puzzles, searching for classical music on Youtube, and using Zoom to try out some of the virtual social clubs that Liverpool Cares offers for free every month.

We now have five older neighbours taking part in ‘Project iPad’ (as we’ve nicknamed it!), coming along to regular technology sessions with their loaned devices, connecting with younger neighbours and with other older neighbours who have their own devices. 

In 2022 we’ll continue to grow ‘Project iPad’, connecting more of our neighbours to the digital world, and hosting regular technology workshops where neighbours can get together to build their skills with one another. We also want to build deeper local connections so that we’re able to signposting to alternative digital services across Liverpool - such as Include IT Merseyside

If you know someone aged 65+ who is keen to improve their digital skills or would like to hang out with older and younger neighbours from across Liverpool, you can make a referral on our website. 

If you’re 65+ and would like to hear more, you can sign up here

If you’re a younger neighbour and would like to get involved, we encourage you to sign up to our network! You can attend one of our monthly volunteer inductions, where you’ll hear more about this and all of our other programmes. 

Finally, if you’re a community group or partner who would like to hear more about what we do, or work collaboratively with us, we’d love to hear from you.

Rachael Treacher

Posted by Rachael Treacher on Thursday 31st March 2022

Rachael Treacher is the Senior Volunteer and Outreach Coordinator at Liverpool Cares: she manages our community network of younger and older neighbours.