By Lynne Bennett, Regional Development Worker at Linking Generations Northern Ireland
A Big Lottery Funded project to introduce older people to IT and the internet is broadening horizons for those in sheltered housing schemes in Northern Ireland.
Before taking part in the Digital Age Project run by Linking generations NI, Winifred would have called herself a technophobe.
She had been given an iPad by her grandson who works in the USA, as a method of keeping in touch. However, she was not confident in using email, Skype or the iPlayer, so keeping in touch wasn’t easy.
But then the Digital Age Project came to her sheltered housing scheme, Abbey Court Fold in Belfast.
The Digital Age project provides free 10-week Introduction to IT courses to residents in sheltered housing schemes across Northern Ireland. It is funded by the Big Lottery’s Reaching Out – Connecting Older People programme.
A friendly, patient and approachable tutor delivers the lessons on iPads and other tablets, at a pace Winifred and the other residents can keep up with. The idea is to show residents of sheltered housing schemes how use the internet, to discover the benefits of being digitally included.
One new laptop is donated to each participating Sheltered Housing Schemes. There is also an opportunity for residents to link up with a local school/youth group for an exciting intergenerational creative IT project.
Since taking part in the 10-week IT sessions with the Digital Age project, Winifred said her confidence has improved and she can now download apps to her iPad, and read and watch the BBC news, and keep in touch with her family.
She now loves googling her favourite poems and hymns, and shopping online for books and clothes. She enjoys finding out what is happening in the local community, in Northern Ireland, and around the world. She also uses her ipad to search the NHS online for medical advice.
Winifred said: ‘I am grateful to the Big Lottery NI for the opportunity to open up my horizons by going on-line and providing me with a sense of being independent. I enjoy being able to find things out for myself as the internet brings the world to my sitting room.’
Digital Age project is delivered by a partnership comprising Ignite IT, Zenith IT Solutions, NIACE (National Institute of Adult Continuing Education), NIFHA (NI Federation of Housing Associations) and in partnership with Go ON NI. Linking Generations NI (part of the Beth Johnson Foundation) are the lead partners.