Getting connected

29 April 2021
Sandy laptop group

Sandy Stewart, Groups Support Assistant with our Older People Active Lives Team, writes for our blog on his experience supporting digital inclusion among older people:

Isolation during covid has been tough on all of us. If it weren’t for modern technologies allowing us to connect to platforms such as Zoom and Messenger video calls, our contact with people would be severely impacted. Imagine then, if you are not familiar with this digital age. Imagine if you were born at a time when modern technology was a black and white tv and a twin tub washing machine.

Many of our older people are not able to indulge in video calls with friends and family due to simply not owning the equipment or not fully understanding how to use it. Google is as alien to them as outside toilets and tin baths are to us.

Enter Connecting Scotland, a Scottish government initiative to promote Digital Inclusion. When I learned that OPAL had signed up for this scheme and had been granted 30 devices to give to some of our most isolated clients and volunteers, I jumped at the chance to become involved.

To begin with, progress was slow. What can seem quite straightforward to show someone takes on a new dimension when trying to describe it over the phone, particularly when you’re limited by a lack of shared technogoloical-language. There were many challenges in getting devices set up remotely and for some, even working out which end of the cable went where proved difficult.  Almost everyone I was working with was absolutely certain that they couldn’t do it. Thankfully they trusted us enough to persevere and were curious enough to take the time to learn.

For me, the rewards have greatly outweighed the difficulties in getting people up and running. One lady, who had never used any type of digital device before except an old Nokia mobile, was able to use her ipad to join our Wednesday Zoom Room on the very day that her niece was telling us Halloween stories. The look on her face when she saw her and the joy in her voice was heart-warming.

Another lady spoke with so much excitement about her video call with her daughters the previous Friday evening; from no company for weeks to five people on screen all engaged in conversation about the day-to-day stuff made her week!

As time progresses, we are seeing more and more people previously excluded from participating, joining in or sharing their stories about this call, or that catch up.  It is both a pleasure and a privilege to be helping older people in our community to become better connected with the world in these testing times, and we’re grateful to the Connecting Scotland fund for helping us spread the joy.

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