Older People’s Digital Inclusion Network

100% Digital Leeds are working with third sector partners across the city to improve digital inclusion and participation for older people. We are working together towards our ambition to make Leeds the most digitally inclusive city for everyone and our Age Friendly Leeds ambition to be the best city to grow old in.

Although the number of older people who are digitally connected continues to rise, across the country there are still around 5 million people over the age of 55 who are not online. And while factors such as income and levels of education play a part, age is one of the biggest indicators of who’s digitally excluded.

We’re working to bridge the divide, ensuring no one is left behind in this increasingly digital world. The approach we take is strengths based, collaborative, person centred, inclusive and holistic. We work with organisations who have established positive relationships and trust with older people with low or no digital skills. We tackle the barriers to digital inclusion with organisations who understand the needs of their service users. 

Older People’s Digital Inclusion Network

12 months on from launching the Older People’s Digital Inclusion Network in Leeds, 100% Digital Leeds and Leeds Older People’s Forum reflect on the developments, key achievements, and partnerships this network has enabled: 

It brings together a citywide network of organisations that support and work with older people in Leeds, giving organisations the opportunity to collaborate, share best practice, and work together to develop inclusive, person-centred approaches to support older people with digital inclusion.   

The network supports organisations to develop the skills, confidence, and tools they need to better support their service users to use digital, working in partnership to increase resource, capacity and embedding digital inclusion within their services. 


44 organisations are currently part of the network which over the past 12 months with support from 100% Digital Leeds has seen 14 organisations recruit a digital inclusion worker within their organisation, develop device lending schemes with data for those digitally excluded and over £300,000 of successful funding applications to build resource and capacity to support digital inclusion for older people in Leeds.

Increasing connectivity in the city to support older people who are digitally excluded has been a key focus and the network have worked in partnership to acquire various successful funds which have enabled them to embed digital inclusion across their services, increasing WI-FI in their centres and developing data and tablet loan schemes.  This includes smartphones with data gifted via Hubbub UK and data sims acquired through Vodafone Charities Connected.

Developing staff skills and confidence across the organisations who support older people has been hugely beneficial through the network, with various training and support sessions delivered by 100% Digital Leeds, Barclays Digital Eagles and working collaboratively to share knowledge, skills, and experience across the network.  Many organisations now visit each other’s centres to share learning and collaborate, offering practical tips to try different approaches to support older people in overcoming digital inclusion barriers.  Sharing best approaches many of the organisations have partnered with Leeds University, Leeds College and local schools in Leeds to utilise intergenerational opportunities which have  The network have now also connected in with the Good Things Foundation’s Connect Up programme – a national digital inclusion network for organisations working with older people, sharing learning from Leeds and working with national partners. 

6 of the organisations within the network have become Digital Health Hubs in the city to support older people to engage with health services digitally working with 100% Digital Leeds and Local Care Partnerships.  Digital Health Hubs are responsive to people’s interests as well as their needs, they take a holistic approach in supporting people to manage their health and wellbeing, access digital health services (using NHS and GP services online) and developing their digital skills and confidence and overcoming digital inclusion barriers.  The Digital Health Hubs have shared insights, learning and tools and resources with the wider network to support older people across Leeds to improve health outcomes through digital, improved self-management of long-term conditions and reducing health inequalities.

To find out more or to join the network contact rachel.benn@leeds.gov.uk    or ali@opforum.org.uk

Case Studies

There has been so much positive impact on digital inclusion for older people across the 44 organisations within the network, collaboration, developing skills and confidence, funding and capacity and resource building

Age UK Leeds

Age UK Leeds have developed a Digital Wellbeing Service over the past 12 months – Lending data-enabled tablets and providing volunteer support across Leeds to help people over 50 get online. Raising awareness and demonstrating how to use online health and wellbeing management tools, such as the NHS app, online appointment booking, video calling and accessibility features, among many more.

The Older People’s Digital Inclusion Network has been a valuable space to meet colleagues across the city and share ideas, tips and solutions to the many challenges we’ve faced across the last year. For us, a prime example of this was learning about Remote Device Management tools, as part of setting up a safe and robust device-lending scheme.

We have had an influx of new enthusiastic Digital Champion volunteers and are looking forward to setting up some group ‘Digital Drop-in’ sessions in venues across Leeds soon.  The network is enabling us to work with other partners in the city who support older people to share capacity and utilise our city-wide service and volunteers to support older, digitally-excluded people in Leeds.”

Lee Potter, Digital Health Community Development Worker, Age UK

Your Backyard

Your Backyard have transformed and developed their digital inclusion offer over the past year, working with a wide range of partners within the network supporting hundreds of older people to develop their digital skills and confidence.

“We’ve worked with Leeds City College and Leeds Universities to enable student volunteers to buddy with older adults at Bramley Elderly Action and provide 1-to-1 digital support.  Alongside the digital support students offered, we loaned out 15, 4G enabled tablets to enable those without connectivity or Wi-Fi to be able to go online.

Working with 100% Digital Leeds we have most recently received funding from Leeds Older People’s Forum to run an additional digital café at Bramley Lawn club to cover more things digital in the weeks when our initial café is not on!”

Kyra Rowe, Research and Project Development Officer, Your Back Yard

Here’s a few important points Your Back Yard have learned over the year, when trying to provide 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 so vital, as well as having available funding for projects. 
  • Older adults we have worked with have had low confidence with digital and have not initially had the desire to go online, however, finding things they like and are interested in as motivated them to take that first step, and we’ve supported them to grow their confidence and enjoy the journey! 
  • 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 if they 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 so 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 SUPER 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!
  • 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 the digital inclusion network and in developing our city-wide offer for older people.  In the future months we are hoping to secure funding for a digital inclusion worker who can lead and coordinate our digital inclusion projects and support older people to become digital champions who can share their skills and knowledge with other older people.

Cross Gates and District Good Neighbours

Cross Gates and District Good Neighbours have continued to provide support and inspiration to other organisations within the network across the past year, including supporting other Digital Health Hubs with tools and resources and delivering training and sharing best practice. 

“We’ve had a busy 12 months; we’ve developed our YouTube channel which has enabled our members to continue their learning and enabled us to share these short digital support videos with other organisations who support older people with digital inclusion. 

With the support of 100% Digital Leeds, we were successful in receiving funding for 3 digital inclusion projects to develop our offer further.  We launched our Intergenerational Project over the summer where we worked with local Colleges and Universities to offer work experience to younger people aged 17-24.  We brought together a young person and an older member together each week to learn how to use their digital devices. Together they formed friendships and got to know more about each other’s lives whilst also learning new skills, this increased members confidence, and many took their first steps online.

We opened our Community Hub in Cross Gates Shopping Centre during October 2021, and this has enabled us to reach more of the community and provided a dedicated space for computer lessons. We run group digital support sessions every Friday and members can choose from a variety of themes such as booking holidays and getting the most out of using their smartphones.  We also offer a digital drop-in session, and many 1-1 digital sessions are available. 

We continue to offer our Digital Health hub support and set up members on the NHS App so that they can manage their appointments, prescriptions, and test results online.  We had an increased demand during Autumn from members to support with paperwork and Covid requirements for those going abroad and assist many with accessing their Vaccine Passports, booking tests, and completing passenger locator forms.  This helped many of our members who wanted to go away but were struggling with all the online requirements to reduce their stress and go away without worrying.

We have hugely benefited from being part of the Older People’s Digital Inclusion Network and made lots of contacts with other organisations and benefited from shared learning and shared resources as well as partnership funding opportunities”

Samantha Haggart, Digital Inclusion Worker, Cross Gates and District Good Neighbours Scheme CIO

Engage Leeds

Engage Leeds received funding via Leeds Older People’s Forum with the support of 100% Digital Leeds to develop a device lending scheme to support their older residents living with dementia to go online.  Being part of the digital inclusion network has enabled them to connect with organisations across the city who support older people and learn the best approaches in running a device lending scheme effectively and how to support older people to use tablets and Alexa’s.

One of Engage Leeds service users shares the impact of being gifted an Alexa:

“My little electronic friend, Alexa Show, has been a fantastic help through a very challenging time, especially when our building went into lockdown. The little box has assisted me to retain PMA (Positive Mental Attitude), kept me calm and relaxed, when I have started to feel anxious. She taught me new things like historical facts, recipes and the biggest things are the diary/appointment features to help me remember when these are.  She has allowed me to express myself by singing and I love that I am also able to remain at one with my faith (through playing my Christian music).
All these features are wonderful and massively help me with my loneliness but keep my independence at the same time. Thank you!”

Group member, Engage Leeds

Holbeck Together

Holbeck Together have recently developed their digital inclusion offer to become a Digital Health Hub with the support of 100% Digital Leeds and the Beeston and Middleton Local Care Partnership.  With successful funding they have managed to recruit a digital inclusion worker to coordinate and deliver their programme and they have worked with 100% Digital Leeds to support many their members to receive gifted smartphones via Hubbub UK, with many members not having Wi-Fi or digital devices this has had a huge positive impact.

Their Digital Inclusion worker is supporting lots of members weekly with digital drop in’s and supporting members with their own devices and the gifted devices to develop their confidence and raise awareness of the things they can use them for.  He shares the impact of supporting one of their members:

“One member we’ve supported was having trouble with looking into new deals for his iPhone contract which had expired.  We looked at ways to go online and checked for the best value ones that were suited for his current use, chatting about how much data he might need depending on what he was doing and what he might use in the future. We looked at the app store and how to install new ones and chatted about which ones could benefit him in the future.

Then supporting him with getting an android tablet, we’ve shown him the basics and helped him to set it up and adjust various accessibility settings, so he was comfortable with screen brightness, font size and how the operating system works overall. We’ve installed several new apps, which included the NHS app and several others to help him with day-to-day activities and walking exercise. On his next visit we also reactivated his e-mail so he could use it as he had been unable to access it for some time due to a forgotten password and he now feels confident in using it again.”

Sean Flannigan, Digital Inclusion Worker, Holbeck Together

Overcoming the barrier of Motivation

Motivating people in later life to get online in the ways that they want can enable them to maintain their independence, social connections, access to financial information and other services. Being online can lead to positive health outcomes through increased social contacts, reduced loneliness, increased confidence, fulfilment and enjoyment.  

We’ve found the best approach to motivate people to get online for the first time is to use a ‘hook’. Rather than focusing on the thing that we think the person needs to do, what about focusing on what they want to do? What matters to that person? What would save them time, or give them enjoyment? Things that might surprise or delight them. Or things they might be missing because they can’t do them anymore – but could do them ‘virtually’. Make the activity about the person, link digital ‘hooks’ to their hobbies and interests. This might be making a video call with friends and family, using a Jigsaw app or listening to music on a Radio Station app. Find something that boosts the person’s mood and enables them to develop their digital skills and confidence by doing something online that they already enjoy in the non-digital world.

Tools and Resources to enable organisations and groups to support older people with digital inclusion

Digital Champions training for Older People

How to guide for digital inclusion for people living with Dementia

Videos to support Older People with digital: Cross Gates and District Good Neighbours YouTube Channel

Blog Posts: Digital Inclusion for Older People

Supporting care homes during the pandemic

Digital Inclusion within OPAL

Caring Together in Woodhouse and Little London

Cross Gates and District Good Neighbours: Digital Health Hub

Cross Gates and District Good Neighbours: Delivering our Digital Health Hub through lockdown

Supporting members to stay connected through COVID-19

IPads and Alexas in Leeds Recovery Hubs

Digital Champions within Leeds Breathe Easy Groups


Digital Inclusion for Older People

Digital Inclusion for Older People – Lightning Talks
Supporting Older People to take their first steps online
Supporting Older People to manage their Health and Wellbeing Online
Developing Digital Champions within your Organisation
Delivering Virtual Sessions for Older People