Your Back Yard are a social enterprise organisation based in West Leeds that focus on supporting communities across the city to be able to live healthier, more active, and happier lives. They provide a range of sports and wellbeing activities aimed at older adults, including walking football, walking netball, and tai chi.
Through the pandemic they found many of their members couldn’t access the sessions and activities they offered and faced barriers to digital inclusion when they started hosting virtual sessions. They decided to build and develop a core digital inclusion offer within their service to enable older people to develop their digital skills and confidence and to support them to access the exercise and social sessions available online.
Your Back Yard partnered with 100% Digital Leeds in 2021, and looked at ways they could provide digital support in an inclusive and person-centred way for their members. They had limited capacity to deliver support sessions but had identified a real need and demand across their service users. Many didn’t have devices and had never been online before.
Your Backyard decided to partner with Leeds City College and Leeds University to build their capacity to deliver digital inclusion support within the West Leeds area. They recruited student volunteers to join the programme and they buddied up with older adults and provided 1-1 and group support. This enabled them to download and use Zoom, download apps that linked to their interests, and build their confidence in using their devices.
The students received digital inclusion awareness training delivered by 100% Digital Leeds, and took a holistic approach in tailoring sessions to ensure they met the needs of members.
This intergenerational approach worked really well, and they still continue to deliver sessions in this way working with the University and College students. The range of themed sessions they have delivered was based on what the members were interested in such as using bus apps, ordering prescriptions online, downloading BBC iPlayer and being able to email and video call family and friends.
Expanding their digital inclusion offer
Throughout the past year Your Back Yard have developed this partnership with the College and University and expanded their reach further across the city, working with other organisations who support older people to support them with their capacity and delivery.
“Joining the Older People’s Digital Inclusion Network has enabled us to develop several partnerships, and helped us identify ways we could work with other organisations to support their capacity gaps to deliver digital inclusion. We worked with 100% Digital Leeds to identify and apply for funding to look at expanding our offer across Leeds”
Your Back Yard applied and successfully received several funding bids, including a Digital Inclusion Fund Grant, Stay Well in Winter grant, Places for People, HAP bids and more. With this funding they have partnered with Burmantoffs Senior Action, Richmond Hill Elderly Action, Bramley Elderly Action, OWLS, Cross Gates and District Good Neighbours, Holt Park Active, MHA Communities South Leeds, and retirement homes to deliver digital skills support.
They wanted to really embed their digital inclusion offer into their existing offer of social, sport and exercise sessions, enabling more older people to have the opportunity to join virtually and be more digitally confident, but also find out about which face to face sessions they could join to support their health and wellbeing.
“In addition to offering digital support to residents we were also able to share with them information about the other activities we run such as our walking football. Marge, one of our now digital champions, has become a member of our walking football team who meet every Friday morning! We were also able to support people to access our Get Active and Online fitness classes which we offer live on Zoom. We are so happy we can merge our goals of both supporting digital inclusion and encouraging activity and fitness for older adults in our work!”
Your Back Yard have enabled older people who have been supported themselves with digital to go on to become ‘digital champions’ – helping others use WhatsApp and encouraging peer support. This has helped reduce fears people felt about going online and really empowered members to share their skills and experiences. In identifying that a significant number of people they were engaging with didn’t have devices or equipment they also utilised funding to purchase equipment to enable members to loan devices to support their learning journey.
“We wanted to deliver a wrap-around support offer where we could loan someone a tablet with 4G data and then be able to work with the students to deliver digital support with people to build their confidence and skills in using the devices. We have joined the National Databank to be able to gift data to people and accessed free 4G enabled sim cards via Vodafone Charities Connected to also support those without Wifi at home”
Here’s a few important points Your Back Yard have learned over the past year, when delivering a digitally inclusive service for older adults:
- Older adults have benefitted most from regular and consistent digital support (ideally weekly).
- Digital inclusion needs city wide support, and working collaboratively in the network and with wider partners is vital, as well as having available funding for projects.
- For older people to get the most out of being online we have found having an up-to-date smartphone has been beneficial for increasing social connections and being introduced to apps. This has been a huge barrier for people with low incomes. A huge thanks to 100% Digital Leeds and Hubbub UK we received iPhones which we have been able to gift to older people we work with, who have now managed to set up a WhatsApp group, keep in touch, provide peer-support, and develop their skills and confidence as well as now being able to have so many more opportunities.
- It’s quicker and easy to do things for people but this doesn’t help older people in the long run or increase their confidence. It’s key to have patience and support people to be empowered to have a go themselves and be able to independently engage with digital.
- Writing things down so older people can practice their digital skills at home is 100% worth it. It’s great to see how they have developed their skills in their own time and how empowered they feel after this.
- Student volunteers have been vital. The intergenerational work we have done has had so many positive benefits and young people have shared their digital knowledge and developed great relationships with the older people they have supported.
- The benefits of supporting older people to go online are huge, and very rewarding. When you hear they facetimed their grandchildren, logged on to our exercise classes, sent an email, joined a group chat, watched a video on YouTube or booked a doctor’s appointment for the first time in 2 years it makes all your efforts worth it. It’s brilliant!
Your Back Yard now deliver 5 digital cafes across the city and are seeking further funding opportunities, working in partnership with 100% Digital Leeds and the Older People’s Digital Inclusion network to support organisations that need additional capacity and resource in delivering digital inclusion. Their current offer has digital skills support sessions in a variety of locations both 1-1 and group based, device lending schemes, and data gifting.
Their success in delivering digital sessions with Daisyfield Grange Retirement Home has now led them to look at further digital support they could offer across residential and care homes to support older people in developing their digital skills and confidence.
“We still have a long way to go to help sustainably reduce the digital divide in Leeds, but we will be tackling that challenge head on with the support of 100% Digital Leeds, the Older People’s Digital Inclusion Network and in developing our city-wide offer for older people. In the future months we are hoping to secure further funding for a digital inclusion worker who can lead and coordinate our digital inclusion projects and continue to support older people to become digital champions who can share their skills and knowledge with other older people”