The Digital Age Project is now officially, well and truly launched!
On November 20, 2012, the Digital Age Partnership officially launched a new four year scheme funded by the Big Lottery Fund to address digital exclusion experienced by older people living in sheltered accommodation.
The kick-off event for the Digital Age Project was hosted by Newington Housing Association at their Camberwell Court location. It was well attended by a mix of community and voluntary groups, older people from local housing schemes, and housing association professionals. The launch featured speeches from Alison Fraser, Senior Head of Funding for the Big Lottery Fund, Lucinda McMurran of the NI Federation of Housing Associations, and Diarmuid Moore from the WEA. We were also treated to a command performance from budding acting talent Pat Cunningham who is also the chair of the Newry U3A.
Event Speakers: Alison Fraser (Big Lottery Fund), Diarmuid Moore (WEA), Lucinda McMurran (NIFHA), and Pat Cunningham (Newry U3A and Kaleidescope)
The theme of the event was "Keeping Up with the Digital Age" which has become increasingly essential for all of us! Digital exclusion is not just an issue of having access to a computer or not, the way we use technology impacts on all aspects of modern life. The information age has changed how we interact and communicate with each other, access news and services, and how we spend our money. “This is an equality issue”, said Healy King, Development Officer for the Digital Age Project, “If only some people in Northern Ireland have access to information tools such as online learning, electronic health records, and e-government services, that places the have-not’s at a distinct disadvantage. The ability for all citizens to access and understand information is critical for an equitable society. We cannot allow age to be used as an excuse to leave anyone behind.”
Pictured above, residents at Camberwell Court spoke in glowing terms about their experience thus far with the project.
Diarmuid Moore, WEA Assistant Director, said, "There are all kinds of barriers to getting online affecting older people, both in practice and attitude. Many older people simply don’t realize how new technologies are relevant to their lives. The WEA’s mission is to make learning irresistible, so this project aims not only to provide access and teach skills, but also to reveal the many benefits and opportunities that the internet can provide in later life. ”
Lucinda McMurran, Northern Ireland Federation of Housing Associations added, “There is a strong correlation between digital exclusion and social exclusion. While of course we think digital inclusion is important in its own right, we are also keen to address other issues that older people in sheltered housing may face, such as the need for positive social interaction with peers, family and the wider community; the need to access information and services; and, the need to make the best use of limited finances. We know these last two will become even more important as the impending Welfare Reform changes will create services that are ‘digital by default’, making online interactions the government’s preferred way of working. We are delighted to be part of this project which aims to use digital inclusion to improve overall well-being.”
An intergenerational element of this programme will also help sheltered housing schemes to make connections with schools and youth groups in their area. Vicki Titterington from Linking Generations NI remarked that “making those links between older and younger people in the community, helping them to learn from each other, that is the key to sustaining this kind of project and to relationship building for years to come. “
A big thank you to everyone who made our event such a success, especially Alison at the Big Lottery Fund, Anthony, Kathleen and the whole crew at Camberwell Court, Pat aka "The Enthusiast" Cunningham, and all of our partners and friends who came out to support us!
The Project Team: Healy King (WEA), Lucinda McMurran (NIFHA), Diarmuid Moore (WEA), Vicki Titterington (LGNI), Ewa Luger (NIACE), Robin Montgomery (Avec Solutions) and Lynne Bennett (LGNI)
More pictures on picassa!
Online Resources for Digital Learning
There are a host of resources available online to help you get started learning about computers, the internet, and other aspects of online communication.
The Digital Age Project will be producing our own guides based on the learning gained from the first year of the project and they will be available on our website free to all. In the meantime though, here are some excellent resources already online so don’t wait to get started!
BT Go On – Get IT Together
BT has developed resources for those who want to help get people online with hints and tips to coach them. And for learners, there are handy worksheets that will act as prompts to enable them to make notes as they go along.
The free downloadable resources are broken into three different themes: basics, family and services, and wider interests. Each series contains several modules which are aimed at helping people get the most out of the internet.
The Get Digital Project
A project similar to ours has already been run in England. The project produced many free downloads to help anyone run their own “Get Digital” programme.
More Online Resources for Learning
Join the Digital Age Project
Preliminary research indicates there will be a great deal of demand for this programme. Interested sheltered housing schemes will be assessed by the partnership for their suitability around the extent to which ICT is already being used, what equipment will be required based on the residents’ needs, and that there is good support from the management and staff for the project.
We also aim to have good geographical representation across Northern Ireland, a good mix between urban and rural locations, and a community background balance.
What we will do:
• Run a tailored programme of digital learning for older people in sheltered schemes that will allow them to maximise the opportunities available in the digital age.
• Support the ongoing digital inclusion of sheltered housing residents by installing accessible hardware (e.g. computers, printers, cameras, Wii etc.) in their accommodation scheme.
• Underpin the digital inclusion theme through intergenerational collaborative activities with children/young people/young adults.
• Use project capacity to increase digital inclusion generally by developing open source guides, research reports and toolkits that can be used in any care setting.
What participating schemes must do:
• Take time to read the information provided by the project so that the aims, objectives and commitment required from them are clear.
• Provide a named key contact person who can coordinate with the partnership.
• Take part in the assessment process and in helping to plan the delivery of the project.
• Provide adequate space for the training to take place in.
• Circulate information about the project to the older people living in the scheme and actively encouraging participation.
• Contribute to project evaluation.
Get in Touch
To express your scheme’s interest in participating in this project, please download and complete our Expression of Interest Form and email it to email@example.com.
Alternatively, get in touch with WEA for a copy of the form by email or post:
Healy King, Development Officer
Workers' Educational Association
3 Fitzwilliam Street
Tel: 028 9032 9718
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
The internet enables people to communicate with others in ways that they otherwise would not be able to. Email is a quicker (and cheaper) way of keeping in touch than sending letters in the post. Email enables people to send and receive messages instantly, and can include attachments such as photographs. Online instant messaging and chat tools also enable people to have conversations online in real time and internet telephone services such as Skype let people to talk to friends and family around the world for free, and if a webcam is available then these telephone calls can become video calls as well.
Access to information
The internet is an invaluable source of information on just about anything you can think of. Bus and train timetables, telephone numbers and addresses, opening hours, disabled parking information, television and radio listings, maps and directions, local events, restaurant menus and so on. The majority of information can be accessed quickly, easily and without cost (unlike many telephone information services).
The internet is also a useful source of up to date news, with many news sites such as the BBC being updated continually twenty four hours a day. The majority of newspapers, both local and national, have their own website and most of these can be accessed free of charge.
Access to services
Government and industry are expanding ever faster into digital services. Many doctors and dentists appointments can now be booked online, repeat prescriptions can be ordered online, road tax and TV licenses can be paid for online, council services (such as waste collection) can be booked online and so on. There are also free advice and information services available online, such as NHS Choices.
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
Access to the internet can provide a lifeline from social isolation for those with out close friends and family to visit. Around half of all internet users say that using the internet increases their contact with friends or family who live further away. There are now 2 million active users of Facebook in the UK who are over 50 years old. Facebook, and other social networking sites, can be used to keep in contact with family and friends and join groups of interest, such as local groups online.
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
There is a wide range of learning opportunities available online. These include formal courses and qualifications as well as a wealth of non formal courses and informal activities. Some courses will cost money, but there are many opportunities to take part in online courses or learning activities for free.
Ability to pursue hobbies and interests and play games
As mentioned above there are many online communities (free to join) which focus on particular hobbies and interests. People can discuss their hobby or interest with others in forums, share news and ideas, and ask and answer questions. Many people also now write blogs (online journals), and follow the blogs of others. Digital technology can also enhance existing hobbies, interests and activities. For example a digital camera or digital video camera can be used to take photos of or record events, activities or day trips out.
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).
Offline households are missing out on average consumer savings of £560 per year. Many retailers and utility companies now offer discounts when goods and services are purchased online. There are also a number of price comparison sites which enable people to find the product or service they are looking for at the cheapest price. Some sites even offer cash back, when a particular good or service is bought online. There are also a number of websites and email lists which offer advice on saving money, and notifications of the latest deals and bargains. Some sites list “voucher codes” – codes that can be entered when paying for items online, to give a discount.
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.
Benefits to the Housing Scheme
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.
There is now an emphasis on consumer choice and a wide range of agencies providing advice and information on sheltered housing provision. In the future, potential residents will be more likely to come from digitally included households and will be expecting to have access to the internet either in their own rooms or in communal spaces. Those schemes providing this and promoting it will have a market advantage. New builds in the future will increasingly embrace more and more technological innovation and other older establishments will need to adjust to keep up.
In financial terms, the health and social benefits of digital inclusion is difficult to quantify, but many believe that such engagement can help residents to maintain autonomy, promote well-being and, as a consequence, possibly reduce any health, medication or care costs. Interacting and transacting with the government or large corporations through the internet can provide an enhanced sense of empowerment to residents who previously may have felt left behind and excluded. Enhanced empowerment and confidence is important to individual feelings of health and wellbeing.
Keep up with current legislation
In addition, housing schemes are required to keep up with current legislation. The NI assembly has pledged to introduce equality legislation that would prohibit age discrimination in the provision of goods, facilities and services. This legislation is already in place in Great Britain and is supposed to be rolled out in 2012. It is possible that any overt exclusion of older people from information technology could be argued within these laws to be discriminatory.
Involve the community
A digital inclusion programme at your housing scheme is also a great way to involve others in the community. Informal tutors in the form of friends, relatives and young people’s groups can be enlisted to sustain the programme after the WEA tutors have finished the “official” training. The Digital Age Programme can help your scheme to connect with young people in the area interested in doing this kind of intergenerational volunteer work.
What is Digital Inclusion?
Click the mouse for the
Top Ten Reasons to go Online
Digital inclusion is commonly defined as “the incorporation of information technologies into the community in order to promote education and improve the quality of life.”
This can mean different things to different people, for example:
- closing the “Digital Divide” - the gap between those enabled and empowered to participate in information and knowledge based society and those who are not
- making technology and electronic services accessible and usable for people with disabilities or the elderly
- giving people broadband internet access
- preventing economic exclusion from electronic commercial and public services that save time and money
- using any digital technology to tackle social exclusion
- using any digital technology in communities to tackle area-based deprivation
- giving people the basic ICT skills to participate in the knowledge economy leading to improved macro-economic performance
It is generally accepted the following factors contribute to the digital divide:
- Access to equipment or connections
This can be construed as ownership of technology or having a connection at home, availability of a connection at convenient locations in everyday life, or having access to the internet anywhere, including at public access points. Examples of barriers which inhibit take-up include affordability, lack of time, or lack of training and support.
- Skills, confidence and capability to use information technologies
Unmet primary needs may present barriers to effective use. Literacy difficulties, for example, make use of the internet problematic, and some disabilities may present challenges – for example visual impairments or dyslexia can make it difficult to read text on an ordinary screen. Low confidence is relevant particularly for those without supportive family members or friends from whom they are able to learn.
Perceptions of the relevance of ICT to individuals’ lives and expectations of what sort of interaction is possible can be a barrier. People need to be able to understand what the internet can do, and how that can be relevant to their everyday lives.
- Use of technologies
What people do with technology, how much of the functionality they use or understand, and how confident they feel using it. Functional capability is arguably even more significant than functional access in considering levels or depths of inclusion and exclusion.