“You don’t know what you’ve done for me. I’m so happy. You’ve had such an impact on my wellbeing”
“I feel like a child in a sweet shop. It is the best thing that has ever happened to me.”
“I get to see my daughters and granddaughters now and be part of what they are doing.”
“I got to meet other residents that I didn’t know existed. I’ve made new friends. It is a miracle!”
These are just some of the things older residents have been saying about Picture This, a digital arts project that has been running since June last year.
Delivered by Notting Hill Genesis in conjunction with the Mental Health Foundation (MHF), Picture This supplies customers with a tablet to help them get online and take part in a range of virtual art groups over a period of 12 weeks. At the end of the project, the customers get to keep their tablets in the hope that they will continue their digital journey.
The project has been happening at four different supported housing schemes: Conrad Court in Lewisham; Elgin Close and Ernest Harriss House in Westminster, and Sidney Millar Court in Acton. Additional funding has now been secured until the end of June 2022, and there are plans to roll the project out to other schemes in East London.
So far, 46 of our residents have taken part in Picture This, all of whom have described the project as ‘transformative’. Many have said that the tablet has allowed them to do more of what they love, such as listening to music or watching videos on YouTube, while others have said that what they have most valued has been getting to know other residents.
Picture This facilitator and Notting Hill Genesis staff member, Gosia Chmielewska, said: “Improved social connection has been a big outcome of the programme, with many residents saying they feel less lonely after using social media and video calls (Zoom). While most social interactions have been taking place only with neighbours or those living close by, some residents have contacted (or planned to contact) via Zoom friends and family who live further afield.
“Going forward, we will be encouraging residents to use platforms such as Zoom independently, as some older people are still not comfortable setting up Zoom calls without the help of a facilitator.”
Lucy Booth, service development officer for care and support, added: “The project was only due to run until March this year, but it’s been so successful that we are delighted to be able to continue to run it until June.
“We’ve helped so many residents be more digitally confident and the feedback has been incredible. One participant was able to attend his father’s memorial in another country and light a virtual candle. It meant so much to him and the rest of his family. I can’t thank MHF enough for their help with this.”
Paul Scharakowski, ‘Picture This’ Project Manager at the Mental Health Foundation, said: “Digital inclusion is more than just being able to get online; it’s also about having the confidence to learn new digital skills. When we have the confidence to connect with others, or access services through the digital world, this can benefit our mental health.
“There is a growing need for more projects which offer well-resourced digital inclusion packages, with tailor-made training and support. The ‘Picture This’ project is both improving people’s mental health by increasing their social connections and by building their skills and confidence so that they can get satisfaction from the digital world.”