Helping older residents to get connected

Supported housing residents have been enjoying learning more about digital devices at a new ‘tech hub’ set up at two of our older people’s living services. 

Cheviots Gardens in Lambeth and Perry Lodge in Redbridge have been equipped with Amazon Echos, Fitbits, Alexa speakers and more, to give residents the opportunity to learn how these devices can have a positive impact on their day-to-day lives. 

During the next few weeks and months, as more face-to-face contact is re-introduced, Notting Hill Genesis staff will be running drop-in sessions to demonstrate how the devices work and give residents the chance to try them out in their own homes.  

Barry Ansley, specialist services advisor, has been instrumental in ensuring the technology works and is compatible with the infrastructure in each scheme. He said: “At both schemes we have worked hard to create a stable Wi-Fi infrastructure throughout the communal areas that extends the Wi-Fi reach around the building. In addition, we are working with our provider to maximise internet speeds into the services. 

“In preparation for the tech hubs we started with a soft launch by simply introducing Amazon Echo into the lounges in both schemes, so residents could become familiar and start to enjoy some of the benefits and see for themselves how easily it works.”  

It is hoped that the tech hub will be rolled out to other supported housing schemes in the future. 

Lucy Booth, service development officer, said: “The recent pandemic has meant that many of our older residents have felt very isolated and cut off from friends and family. With the tech hub, we can show residents how they can feel more connected digitally - and hopefully have some fun in the process. 

“We’re not forcing residents to buy any of the technology. This is purely an opportunity for them to try it out, but if they are interested in buying any of the devices, we can assist with this.” 

Mandy Worster, volunteer programme manager, said: “Residents seemed genuinely pleased to see some new faces at the service and while social distancing restrictions meant numbers were limited, those that did attend had a genuine interest in finding out about Alexa and learning new IT skills. 

“People were impressed with the range of questions they could ask Alexa, and staff made the learning fun. One resident, Tom, who is now completely blind and spends most of his time listening to Radio 4, talked about his love of reading history books before his condition deteriorated. When we explained audio books his face lit up. It felt like two great big doors called ‘the internet’ had opened and his life would now be enriched. It really struck a chord with me, and reminded me what this project was all about.” 

The tech labs will be running for the next four months and are open to all residents at each of the two schemes. 

Notting Hill Genesis is also currently running a digital arts project for residents at Conrad Court and offers an IT mentoring service, ClickSilver Connections, which is open to all older residents.