Retirement LIFE is the arm of Housing Leeds that offers sheltered housing suitable for people who like living independently but need the reassurance of knowing help is at hand if there is an emergency. 4200 older people live in Retirement LIFE homes, spread across the 122 schemes in Leeds. None of the schemes have WiFi and connectivity is a barrier.
A small group of Retirement LIFE Support Officers have been trained as Digital Champions and have been using iPads from the 100% Digital Leeds tablet lending scheme to engage tenants with digital. The initial phase has focused on 23 residential centres with communal integral spaces. The targeted centres are spread across Garforth, Rothwell, Holbeck, Inner City, Guiseley, Pudsey, Hunslet, Otley, Armley, and Morley.
Each centre hosts a variety of social events to bring tenants together, including luncheon clubs, chair exercise classes, and bingo sessions. As many residents have no experience of computers and do not yet understand the benefits of being online, staff have introduced a digital element to existing sessions, motivating residents to take their first steps with digital.
Staff have supported residents to make the most of the internet in a variety of ways. In the first month more than 30 tenants have used the iPads; for many this has been their first experience with digital. People have connected with family and friends through Facebook and Skype, practised shopping online in the run up to Christmas, and reminisced by searched for old photographs and films.
Residents have enjoyed the sessions, with many looking expressing an interest in continuing to develop their skills and some even buying their own devices. Many have been surprised by the range of ways that technology can be useful and have enjoyed listening to music and finding information.
Support Staff have been on their own learning journey as many have not worked on digital inclusion projects before. Becoming Digital Champions and using the iPads has helped them build their own skills and confidence too.
Partnership with Castleton Primary School
Students from a local primary school have been teaching older people to use iPads and the internet as part of a new intergenerational scheme run buy Retirement LIFE and Castleton Primary School.
Six children have been working with residents at Phil May Court Retirement LIFE complex, helping them to understand the benefits of being online and developing their digital skills. The children were more than happy to show the tenants how easy it is to use an iPad and soon had the tenants (and staff) looking up items of interest.
Feedback from tenants was overwhelmingly positive. Bob said that he found the session much easier that he thought it would be; his previous experience had been on a laptop and found the iPads great fun. David enjoyed the session so much that he borrowed an iPad to do some homework overnight. Gladys was just amazed at the size of it and how easy it was to use.
This project forms part of ongoing partnership between Retirement LIFE and 100% Digital Leeds aiming to support older tenants to understand the benefits of digital and develop their digital skills. Read about the wider Retirement LIFE project.