Bee Together borrowed 5 iPads as part of our tablet lending scheme. They used the tablets to set up an online knitting group, connecting people who felt lonely on an evening but found it difficult to get out of the house.

Bee Together

Bee Together is a Time To Shine project supporting older people who are learning disabled and socially isolated. They work to find out why people are isolated and put them in contact with organisations that can help them.

Online Knitting Group

Bee Together identified four socially isolated older ladies who shared a love of knitting and found if difficult to get out of their accommodation on an evening. Participants for the group were found through a partnership with Aspire CBS, who provide care and support services to adults with a learning disability.

Knitting was chosen as a common interest to aid conversations as people with a learning disability often find conversation difficult. An online social group was chosen as the Project Coordinator recognised that many older people with a learning disability are keen to connect with someone on an evening but don’t necessarily want to go out as they have been out during the day or find it difficult to get out without support.

Many older people with learning disabilities have set routines, visiting the same places and socialising with the same people every week. The Online Knitting Group aimed to link people from different parts of the city who didn’t know each other but had a common interest, giving them a chance to chat with the hope that it would lead to new interest based friendships.

Each participant was lent an iPad and an easy read booklet explaining how to log on to the Zoom site to take part in the Online Knitting Group. Zoom was chosen as free video conferencing app that is simple to use, reliable, and doesn’t require a telephone number.

The Project Coordinator pre-loaded each iPad with simple, engaging apps that she thought the knitting group would enjoy, encouraging them to explore different features and gain confidence in using the equipment. Colouring apps, word searches, and games were chosen

Each of the participants lives in an Assisted Living Facility and the Project Coordinator visited each home to explain to the participant and support staff the aims of the project and some basic iPad tuition.

Although the participants have very limited digital skills, only one had experience of using an tablet and none had experience of using video conferencing tools, most of them were keen to learn. Only one participant seemed reticent about the iPad though she was very pleased to see herself on the screen for the first time.

Member Outcomes

Margaret had never used a computer before but was very interested in using the iPad. She had enjoyed exploring the iPad and soon gained confidence in trying different features and settings.

Margaret enjoyed joining in with the chats – scheduled every Friday – and has said she would like to chat to people using video conferencing in future. Support staff also commented that Margaret clearly enjoyed engaging with the technology. Margaret is 70 this year and has asked for her own tablet since taking part in the project.

“I’m getting one for my birthday” – Margaret

Linda took to the group very well. She alright owned a tablet and though she wasn’t making best use of it, the added confidence helped her engagement. Linda was very engaged with the chats and encouraged her house mate, Shelley, to join the chats with her. She made good use of the iPad outside of chat times, utilising the other free apps provided. Linda has been the most frequent participant in the trial. She said she needed help to log on but once she was on she was happy to chat.

Both Margaret and Linda have enjoyed taking part in the Online Knitting Group project and would be keen to see it continue.

Learning Points

The initial aim was to have all four participants chatting at the same time but it soon became clear that the strict routines of the participants meant that this was unlikely to happen quickly. Multiple different timings were attempted but the project only managed one-to-one conversations.

All participants needed support from staff to connect to the chat, even after tutorials and with easy read instructions developed by the Project Coordinator. Having multiple barriers of age and being learning disabled, it was clear it would take a much longer project to get participants using the technology alone.

Staff capacity was essential to the success of the project. The participants who were not able to get as much help and support from care staff found it difficult to log on and got frustrated and upset. Staff capacity means that one – to – one support time is rare and as a result two or the participants left the project early.

The project stalled when support staff lacked the technical skills to troubleshoot problems with the iPad. One participant was unable to join in with the chat because she managed to accidentally turn off the 4G and staff were unable to correct this with instructions given over the phone.

 

 

In conclusion, the Online Knitting Group was a creative and ambitious project with clear positive outcomes but was a steep learning curve for all involved. Bee Together are keen to pilot the project again over a longer period of time with support from Digital Champions, with the hope of moving the project forward.