Digital Age Project
Digital and social exclusion is a big problem for older people. Many services are moving online and older people are missing out on opportunities to connect with friends and family through Digital Technology. This project based in Northern Ireland focused on promoting the social inclusion of older people in sheltered accommodation settings through the use of Digital Technology.
Project Duration: 1st November 2014—30th November 2016
Intergenerational engagement added value to this project and provided a resource of digital skills in the younger people involved. The intergenerational element of the project assisted not only with supporting the older people with Digital learning but created new social connections with other age groups for all involved.
The project aimed to: support 360 older people in sheltered accommodation settings to be more digitally and socially included by: delivering training, developing intergenerational projects and a resource which could be used to continue learning beyond the projects lifetime.
For senior participants:
- Older people involved in the project will have an improved quality of life including feeling less isolated, more mentally active, better informed and better off financially as they are more digitally included.
- Older people involved in the intergenerational part of the project will have increased contact across generations leading to more developed online skills for older people.
- Older people will have access to equipment in their setting to continue learning.
For younger people:
- Younger people involved in the project will feel more connected with their community and will have better facilitation/communication skills, confidence and a better understanding of other people and vice versa.
Who were involved:
- Residents between 55 – 96 years of age from 37 sheltered accommodation
- Primary and post primary pupils and members of youth clubs aged 8 – 18 years across 16 areas of Northern Ireland;
- Key stakeholders – with a remit for supporting older people, digital inclusion and intergenerational engagement.
How many took part:
- Older people – 409 older people in project overall and 135 in intergenerational projects;
- Children/Young People – 219 in intergenerational projects;
- Key Stakeholders – over 300 people attended events as part of the project and many still accessing and sharing project resources.
Linking Generations Northern Ireland (LGNI) promoted the opportunity to residents in housing schemes by visiting and giving a presentation and answering any questions/queries as well as liaising with school teachers and youth leaders to recruit young people.
Key stakeholders were recruited via invitation, social media etc to attend events and to disseminate information.
Main activities included:
- Delivery of 37 ten week IT courses for older people by partners Ignite IT Solutions;
- Development of 16 intergenerational projects involving participants of 10 week courses and local children/young people;
- Development of learning resource launch and promotion amongst stakeholders;
- Closing conference.
16 Digital Intergenerational Projects:
- Sheltered accommodation residents participated in a 10 week IT training course with schools/youth groups
- Single identity sessions facilitated with each age group in individual settings e.g. schools or housing schemes;
- Get to know each other session facilitated by LGNI in each of 16 projects with older and younger participants – used to provide introductions and to plan and generate digital project ideas;
- Six week digital projects (x16) facilitated by Ignite IT – usually weekly sessions lasting approximately 1 ½ hours held in either setting, some even swapped about;
- Ideas for digital activity for each project generated by participants and the facilitated by our partner Ignite IT. Activities included – digital photography, creation of printed on items such as bags for life, mugs scarves etc and creation of canvases;
- A celebration event was also held for each individual project including food, presentation of certificates, press/social media coverage and planning for future activity/engagement.
Benefits for the Community
- Improved relations between generations
- Promotion of volunteering
- Opportunity for continued activity and use of toolkit resource
Benefits for the Younger People
- Increased awareness and understanding of how older people can be fearful of young people;
- Increased knowledge about older people and their interests/concerns;
- More likely to talk to older people
- Better relationships and friendships with older people.
- Increased confidence around technology
- Increased Digital skills.
Benefits for the Older People
From participating in the intergenerational element of this project:
- 105 older people reported that taking part in the intergenerational project had made them feel more confident using technology
- 100 older people reported that they had developed their computer/digital skills and the number said they were now more interested in technology;
- 291 older and younger people reported learning more about the other age group and their interests/concerns (180 young people and 111 older people);
- 112 reported being involved in intergenerational project made them feel more part of their community.
- Big Lottery Fund for NI – Reaching out connecting older people grants call.
- Also additional support from Dept. Finance GoONNI programme re launch etc.
This project has now accessed funding of £100,000 for another year with a new and smaller partnership focusing on the successes and feedback from the external evaluation. The new partnership includes LGNI, Ignite IT and Juniper Consulting. Year 3 will use the toolkit produced as a resource to support post primary school pupils to support older people with their digital learning on a 1 to 1 basis in 8 schools across NI.
The success of the project also generated additional work during its lifetime and also currently with additional funds being provided by our advisory partner Dept. of Finance’s GoONNI programme. LGNI are currently delivering 4 projects in partnership with schools, Belfast City Council community centres and Barclays Bank Digital volunteers. Between years 2014-2016 an additional 6 intergenerational projects were enabled with these funds and also the hosting of a toolkit launch event.
An external evaluator was appointed and a full evaluation report was created.
What would be done differently in the future?
As the intergenerational element was only one part of the project we would change the project to be totally intergenerational and more 1 to 1 based using the knowledge of young people as ‘teachers’. Our final year is doing this and taken on findings from the external evaluation.
For further info please visit the Digital Age Project website.
Our Toolkit produced as part of the project can be downloaded as a resource for continued learning or the development of a digital inclusion course.
Check out our video on our You Tube channel.
LGNI’s vision is that Northern Ireland will be Age-friendly: Generations will work together to build communities for all ages.
Digital inclusion fits well as an intergenerational activity to enable us to bring generations together and addresses social issues e.g. young people and schools have the skills and resources to support older people who are more likely to struggle with using digital technology and by interacting with one another but also addresses isolation.
This project fits with:
- The Dept. of Finances GoONNI programme and move towards NIDirect and government going Digital.
- The Commissioner for Older People’s priorities
- The NI programme for government 2017-2021
- The NI active ageing strategy
- Local council community plans
- Interest of schools to form community connections – Every School a Good School.
Scottish NPF Objectives
This project if carried out in Scotland would contributes to the Scottish National Performance Framework (NPF).
SMARTER – Expanding opportunities to succeed from nurture through to lifelong learning ensuring higher and more widely shared achievements.
HEALTHIER – helping people to sustain and improve their health, especially in disadvantaged communities, ensuring better, local and faster access to health care.
Scottish NPF Outcomes
Our young people are successful learners, confident individuals, effective contributors and responsible citizens: To enable children, young people and (subsequently) adults to thrive from an early age, and make a positive contribution in the 21st century.
We live longer, healthier lives: Securing longer healthier lives for the people of Scotland will always be a top priority for governments and individuals alike. There are significant challenges which can only be addressed by everyone in Scotland working together, pursuing this goal through improving lifestyles and life circumstances, and a shared ownership of an effective NHS.