Our partners at Age UK share their project learning

Published by Sarah Parkes on

One Digital at Age UK works across 8 areas in England, with four Area Coordinators leading local project delivery. Although local delivery varies, these Area Coordinators experience very similar successes and challenges across their projects, and it’s important to make the space for these learnings to be shared. We therefore bring Area Coordinators together every six months to share learnings, troubleshoot challenges, and review and adapt the project model.
Our recent meeting in May 2019 was no different, and Area Coordinators came eager to learn about other projects, as well as share what’s been going on in their area. Summarised below are three of the key learnings that came out of May’s meeting:

1. Digital Champions

Digital Champion recruitment is an ongoing process. Despite having a core group of dedicated, long-term volunteers, local Age UK’s estimate that only 50% of recruited volunteers last longer than 4 months. They also report that many budding volunteers are increasingly looking for short-term, light touch volunteering opportunities, and therefore the Digital Champion role may prove too onerous for some. It was highlighted how important it is that being a Digital Champion remains flexible, and that volunteers are able to support in a way that works for them. As a result, we are exploring the possibility of adding a further light-touch volunteering opportunity. Volunteers would be asked to make a pledge to improve awareness of the benefits of digital skills to older people in their community, their family and friends. Building awareness of the benefits of digital skills amongst older people is imperative to motivating and supporting them to build digital skills, and therefore Digital Pledgers will carry out a vital role in helping us improve the digital skills of older people. One to One Support

2. One to one support

Local Age UK’s are experiencing increasing demand for one to one support. Despite the benefits of groups sessions (e.g. peer support and social interaction), some older people may prefer to engage through one to one sessions, especially when they want to learn potentially confidential subjects, for instance online banking, creating passwords. For others who are housebound, attending a group session is not an option. One to one support is resource heavy, both with regards to time and cost, but it is essential to reaching those who are most at risk of digital exclusion. Therefore, when setting up a Digital Inclusion project for older people, the need for one to one support needs to be reflected from the project design stage. Support provided needs to be flexible, and delivered in a way that works for the older person, whether that’s in a group, on their own, or in their own home.

3. Connectivity

Connectivity was identified as a major barrier to engaging with those most in need of support. Local Age UK’s often work with older people who are housebound, those who are more at risk of being digitally excluded and for whom digital could benefit them hugely. Engaging with older people who are housebound relies on them having access to a device and broadband. Tablet and Mi-Fi Loan Schemes can help to tackle this challenge to a certain degree, however in their nature, provide only a short-term solution. Digital Champions must support older people to choose the best device and broadband should they wish to purchase their own, in order to allow them to continue on their digital journey. Some older people are not in a financial position to purchase their own device/broadband, but we believe that we should be able to help older people navigate around the technology market and recommend the best options available to them.
We will continue to work with Area Coordinators to ensure that, together, we can capture key learning such as this throughout project delivery. We take a flexible approach to delivery, ensuring that these local learnings are taken into account. At Age UK, we are able to take these learnings and adapt and shape the project moving forward to ensure that we can have the most impact.

Sarah Parkes, Project Manager, One Digital – Age UK

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