Kit helps older people get online in Torfaen
by Mark Smith, Digital Content Development Officer
Digital Communities Wales has recently provided IT kit boxes to dozens of voluntary organisations and community groups around Wales. Equipment including laptops, smartphones, tablets, accessibility software and mobile wi-fi devices has gone to those who work in some of Wales’ most disadvantaged communities.
Recipients of the kit will use it to help the people they support, to get online and do more with digital technology. In many cases the kit will also increase the capacity of the organisations using it, helping them to deliver their work in new and different ways.
One example of this is Age Connects Torfaen. The organisation’s main aims revolve around providing services for people aged 50+ living in Torfaen and the surrounding areas.
Age Connects Torfaen has been working to ensure that older people benefit from technological change for many years. It has run annual digital inclusion campaigns and taster sessions, as well as promoting previous ‘Silver Surfer’ weeks and festivals. The organisation has responded to demand from clients for an IT class and now has three regular sessions running each week, all tailored to the needs of the participants. By offering relaxed, customer led sessions Age Connects Torfaen is able to reach those who might otherwise never have the confidence to pick up a computer mouse or use a keyboard. The sessions will focus on their needs, whether it’s keeping in touch with family via email, or booking holidays online.
Age Connects Torfaen will also take the kit it’s received out into its existing befriending hubs and form regular digital clubs. The main barrier to the use of computers, by its customers, appears to be a lack of understanding and confidence of how it works. In order to overcome these fears and anxieties Age Connects Torfaen intends to use plain English in its teaching, rather than technical language and jargon. Peer mentoring will be introduced in the classes, as this has shown to build confidence and enthusiasm. The organisation will also look to run outreach sessions where there is a high footfall of older people. For example, a stall in Pontypool Indoor Market could be used on market day, for drop-in sessions where people could come along for a taster and then be signposted to their relevant local IT class.
Age Connects Torfaen aims to support 400 people each month, with the kit it’s received from Digital Communities Wales. The organisation has six IT volunteers who run classes at its Widdershins Centre.