An interview with a volunteer Digital Champion
Shirley is a Digital Champion who has been working with Age UK Blackburn with Darwen to set up digital inclusion training activities for older people.
Shirley has been reaching people through the community development work that she was already doing, and has now established weekly sessions.
We spoke to Shirley to find out more! Here are some highlights from our interview.
Continuous learning for the Digital Champions
Shirley says that it is positively challenging to work in digital inclusion as she is learning as well. For example when someone asks her about a task that she is not very confident about, she researches, learns and works out the issue together with the older person.
Shirley has been a trainer for a while, but she has also learned that you don’t always have to do structured sessions and that you can flexible with what is taught within a session. Everyone has their own pace, and it’s important to ensure that people don’t feel rushed. It is good to make people feel valued and that they are learning it themselves rather than being spoon-fed.
Topics of interest to Older People
Older people, according to Shirley, are keen to learn more about security as they tend to hear stories about scams. Also, many of them are after the social benefits that digital skills brings, and they want to learn how to take photographs on phones and how to share them on social media.
Shirley said that older people are often quite apprehensive when they first come to a session, as they feel that everybody else knows more than them. It’s therefore really brave when they approach Shirley to support them.
Interactive group sessions for older people
Shirley said that interactive groups are very useful, provided that we make sure that everything that people want to learn is covered and all queries are addressed.
Older people start talking to one another and showing each other how to do things.
The best thing about such group sessions is the social side, as it’s also a way of making new friends. From Shirley’s point of view, digital inclusion firstly makes older people feel they can do new things and secondly, helps them to connect with family and friends.
Self-sustaining Digital Inclusion sessions
Shirley said that, once the current funding ends, the digital inclusion sessions will continue. There is a demand for such sessions and older people who have been attending for a while are now able to assist others in digital skills, becoming Digital Champions themselves!
Digital Inclusion is becoming a need for older people as they feel empowered to do things online and to stay connected. It’s great to see people develop in their digital skills.
Digital Champions like Shirley play a very essential role in supporting older people and improving their digital skills and consequently their wellbeing.
Find out more about volunteer Digital Champions in our Knowledge Hub.