Digital arts project brings older residents together

Supported housing residents at an extra care scheme in South London have been brushing up on their digital skills thanks to a new project. 

We have partnered with the Mental Health Foundation (MHF) to deliver Picture This for older people at Conrad Court in Lewisham. 

The MHF has supplied tablets for customers to get online and take part in a range of virtual art groups. Activities are being delivered by Picture This facilitator and Notting Hill Genesis staff member, Gosia Chmielewska, over a period of 12 weeks. 

At the end of the project, the customers get to keep their tablets and can learn further digital skills from Gosia or through our IT mentoring service, ClickSilver Connections. MHF has also worked with providers to offer customers discounted SIM data packages once the official programme comes to end, in the hope that residents will continue their digital journey. 

So far, 10 residents took part in Picture This when it first launched in June, with a further 10 signed up for the following 12-week course, which began at the start of August.  

Gosia said: “I have been working at Conrad Court three days a week to provide support with art-based activities and help customers learn how to master WhatsApp, Facebook, emails or whatever their preference is. 

With the latest session, I can see great progress already. People in the group are enjoying socialising with each other using Zoom. They are also actively participating with all the art tasks very well, sharing their creativity and having fun. I think they are very fast learners.

Ruby Morgan, a resident of Conrad Court,  added: “Speaking as someone who has worked in health and social care, and once won a national training award, I think the course is absolutely wonderful. Gosia has been marvellous at encouraging people to take part and the feedback from other residents has been superb, with many more wanting to get involved. I can’t praise Gosia and the Mental Health Foundation enough.” 

Lucy Booth, service development officer for care and support at Notting Hill Genesis, said: ”I’m really pleased with how the project has been going so far. With the ongoing pandemic, many of our residents have been shielding and some of our more vulnerable residents are continuing to do so. The Picture This project has been a great way for them to socialise with others, albeit virtually, and not feel quite so isolated. 

”The project is continuing until March 2022, but in the meantime we already have plans to roll it out to another of our schemes. We are also in talk with another housing association to see if we can run this project jointly with them and provide even more opportunities to bring residents together.” 

Paul Scharakowski, Picture This project manager at the Mental Health Foundation, said: “During the pandemic many people used digital services to access shopping and connect with others, but others did not have that luxury. Recognising the need to help people in later life gain digital access, Picture This offers weekly creative group sessions to help build online confidence and be a safe place for people to express their feelings. The project helps people engage with others and promotes good mental health, particularly during a time where face –to-face connections are limited.  

So far, the Conrad Court groups have been a real success and many people who have never owned a smart device or computer have managed to access online hosting platforms for the first time. Our in-house tailored support is ongoing and we hope to see further progression for participants to gain access to new and exciting digital platforms.   

“We look forward to offering this to many more residents at Notting Hill Genesis over the next few months and having the chance to create a positive impact on their day to day lives.” 

You can find out more about Picture This on the Mental Health Foundation's website and blog.