Digital Companions are people who help an elderly friend, family member or neighbour to get online
The scheme harnesses the good will and skills of people who are happy using the internet, and encourages them to buddy up with someone who isn’t.
As the rapid digital transformation of services continues across Wales, there is a risk that those who could most benefit from the digital health revolution are those that are left behind.
In Wales, 60% of people aged over 75 are not regular internet users. Only 49% of pensioners living on their own have internet access. Often this will make it difficult for them to keep in touch with friends and family, making them feel more lonely and isolated. As more and more services move online, they might find it harder to find information or get access to those services.
Being online could also open up a whole world of things to enrich people’s lives – news, books, magazines, recipes, local history, hobbies, music, sports results…
A Digital Companion doesn’t need to be a technical wizard. It’s more important to be patient, caring and a good listener.
The Digital Companions scheme is delivered by Digital Communities Wales – Digital Confidence, Health and Well-being working alongside organisations which help elderly people who are living independently – befrienders, carers, community transport, meals-on-wheels, to name just a few.
The scheme’s approach has built in flexibility to suit a variety of circumstances facing people who are offline. One possible approach, for example, could be:
- Organisations which support people living at home identify customers who are not online.
- The organisation will look at that customer’s close network of family and friends to find someone who could be their Digital Companion.
- The Companion will be given an easy-to-follow guide to help them support their friend/relative, including advice on how to get started and what to expect.
- Over a period of several months, the Digital Companion finds out what their friend/relative might like to use the internet for, and gradually helps them to experience what the web has to offer.
If you work for an organisation which helps older people in their own homes, and you’d like us to help you deliver a Digital Companions scheme, just get in touch.
This is a Bevan Exemplar project, supported by the Bevan Commission, Wales’ premier think tank for health and care.