|Benefits of Digital Inclusion|
Why Get Involved?The number of people in all age groups accessing the internet has risen during the last 10 years, but individuals aged over 60 remain less likely to access the internet than younger age groups. In effect, current cohorts of older people are missing out on one of the most widely used methods of social communication and a medium through which companies increasingly compete to market their services.
Furthermore, the move towards digital inclusion is a government priority. Policies relating to older people in recent years have been stressing the need to improve the quality of life of all older people, and for all to consider issues of engagement, well being, healthy ageing and self worth. Similarly, education policies and discussion papers speak of the role and benefits of education in later life.
The cumulative effects of all these policies raises the profile of older people and their better engagement with the world around them and will impact on what is seen by society as acceptable standards of housing provision for older people. These trends will create a need for the better embracing of digital technology in sheltered housing as a tool in ensuring the continued place of older residents.
Benefits to Residents
Access to information
Access to services
Other services, such as support services provided by charities are increasingly available online. For example, Citizens Advice expects to help more than six times as many people (13 million) through its website than face to face in Citizens Advice Bureaux by 2014.
Online banking is now common and there are even banks and accounts which are only available online. Bills can be paid online, money can be transferred, statements can be checked any time and customer services can be contacted by email. This is particularly useful for people who find it difficult to get to a local branch of their bank in person.
It is becoming increasingly common for many services to now only be available online, and those people who do not have access to the internet (and the skills to use it) are likely to become increasingly disadvantaged in the future.
Reducing social isolation
There are also many online communities and forums which people can join and take part in. Some online communities focus on particular hobbies or interests, such as gardening or astronomy, others focus on issues or campaigns, for example human rights or local projects. Many groups, such as book clubs and walking groups also use the internet to keep in touch between meetings, to share news and photos and discuss upcoming events.
Access to learning opportunities
Ability to pursue hobbies and interests and play games
Games such as Chess, Solitaire and Bingo can be played on a computer (either with or without internet connection). Games consoles can also be an alternative way for people to continue playing games they enjoy (consoles such as the Nintendo Wii include games and sports such as ten pin bowling, golf and tennis).
Benefits to Staff
All of the benefits mentioned above for residents also apply to scheme staff. They too will be able to benefit from a variety of ways to communicate, including the potential to use email and online forums to communicate with staff in other schemes – to share experiences, ask questions and find out about good practice. Staff will also have access to online information and be able to use the internet to search for any information they need, whether for themselves or their residents. Access to online services will also be of benefit to staff, as will access to online learning opportunities.
In addition to these benefits, a digitally included sheltered housing scheme may also present more opportunity for staff to spend time with residents. If more of the day to day administrative tasks, such as dealing with maintenance and repair requests are moved online, this will free up valuable staff time.
In housing schemes, landlords and managers have a crucial role to play in ensuring their residents do not suffer from the increased social divide which can result from digital exclusion. Housing associations which provide internet access and ICT support will become more & more attractive to potential new residents and their families.
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