Cotswold Friends Now Offer IT Help!

by Jane van Velsen

Cotswold Friends Now Offer IT Help!

Community based charity Cotswold Friends offer IT help to local community

In 2015 Cotswold Friends receiving funding from the Notgrove Trust to start the ‘Connect’ Programme.

Connect was implemented to help our most isolated clients currently on the befriending programme with Cotswold Friends.

The pilot programme was based on testing how tablet computers could enhance the connectivity of lives of older people who are vulnerable, isolated and lonely. We believed that enabling these people to comfortably use a tablet to order shopping, speak to a family member on Skype, manage banking and send emails they would benefit from purposeful activities, learning new skills and socializing as well as experience an increase in self-confidence and self-worth and a decline in loneliness and isolation.

Our Project

We identified eight befriending clients who were able to afford, and had access to, the internet and gave four of them a Hudl tablet and 4 of them an iPad tablet on loan for six months until they could master using it and determine if they’d like to buy one of their own.

We then arranged for our project co-ordinator to visit them and introduce them to one of our four IT volunteers. As volunteers with Cotswold Friends they are DBS checked and have undergone induction training.

Once introductions were made, the volunteer assigned visited with their clients and each week spent time teaching them how to use their tablet. Each client signed a ‘Conditions of Use’ so that they fully understood what their obligation was to Cotswold Friends and so that we could keep a record of those who had use of a tablet.

Who did this Project Benefit?

The pilot has benefitted twelve people. The 8 who are learning and the 4 volunteers who are teaching and supporting. We have had to keep the numbers low as the cost of the tablets is high and most of the funding has gone on the supply of hardware i.e. tablets and volunteer expenses.

The clients were told that the iPad or Hudl would be on loan for a period of 6 months and that relevant training would be given to enable them to use the tablet to:

• Keep in touch with family and friends • Use social media like facebook and twitter • Keep up to date with the news through sites like the BBCiPlayer • To research topics on Google and Wikipedia • Manage bank accounts and payment of bills • Shopping • Taking, viewing and storing photographs • Downloading books online to read at leisure • Downloading TV programmes to watch when they’re on too late

What Outcomes did we find?

Client: Mary Mary is 69 and suffers from mental health issues, crippling osteo arthritis and is a carer for her husband who has vascular dementia. They are estranged from the family since her husband’s diagnosis so feel very isolated. The tablet has been a life line for Mary as she is now able to shop, connect with her community and friends.

Client: Betty Betty is 84 and lives in Moreton in Marsh. She suffers with continuous pain and finds it hard to remember things due to a stroke a while back. She is virtually housebound and desperately lonely with limited family support as her family all live in Lincolnshire. Her volunteer reported that initially she was reluctant to learn but her interest grew after a few visits and he had her reading the news and doing puzzles. He is persevering.

Client: Margaret Margaret is in her late 80’s and is quite frail with short term memory. After a few lessons Margaret is now able to Skype her daughter in Ireland. Her progress and enthusiasm are encouraging. Skyping her daughter, who has MS, has helped Margaret have peace of mind and save a lot of money on phone bills. Our volunteer installed RTE (Irish equivalent of BBC) news app so that Margaret can keep up with local news in her daughter’s area. Margaret has also asked for help to download apps about maps and mapping as an interest. She tells us that the tablet is a great asset to her and she is enjoying learning to use it for more and more daily issues like shopping and banking.

Client: Janet Janet is 72 and has Parkinson’s so she is not mobile without a walker. She is a little computer literate but due to spasmsbut had never used a tablet before and is enjoying the ability to take it with her sometimes. She uses it now for email, Skype and to order shopping from Tesco’s. She also downloads books from the library and reads on it as it’s lightweight. She tells her volunteer that it’s opened her eyes about what is available in her area as she is more connected to her community now as she is on the community Facebook page and able to interact more.

Client: Keith Keith is 76 and living in Moreton in Marsh. He is single and a recovering alcoholic which has left him with mental health issues. He is estranged from his family and although quite mobile he is desperately lonely. Keith is using his tablet for shopping, downloading documentaries and keeping connected to the community and now making friends through Facebook.

Client: Carl Carl is 76 and lives in Mickleton. He is mobile and married but has an acquired brain injury which has left him with dementia which increases his isolation and loneliness. Although Karl’s wife has used tablets she finds it difficult to teach her husband as he doesn’t listen to her and becomes irritated. They do travel but benefit from our befriending service. Having an independent volunteer visit him to teach him has been a better solution and Karl has now learned to use his tablet to research for hobbies and general interest, socialize and shop. His wife has told us that he is very enthusiastic about learning more and would appreciate further tutorials.

Some clients we offered the tablets to turned them down as they found the idea too scary, others as they were concerned about the cost of internet services, others because their area is not on broadband and they felt they wouldn’t use it.

Overall Outcomes

We have found that:

  1. Connectivity to the community was increased overall
  2. Connectivity to family was increased
  3. Shopping and reading have been made easier for these clients increasing their independent living
  4. They benefit through stimulation of memory through photos, videos and puzzles
  5. They are excited to be learning a new skill
  6. Having a regular visit from an independent ‘friend’ to teach them overcomes the frustration of a family member teaching them

Conclusion

We have been able to continue with the programme and expand the number of clients receiving a tablet for six months and learning how to use it to increase independent living through a grant from Gloucestershire County Council.

If you know someone who would benefit from this service, please get in touch. info@cotswoldfriends.org

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