“Supporting our members through lockdown with digital”

As we approach a second lockdown, Michelle at AVSED shares in this guest blog post how they’re adapting their services and using digital as a way of keeping their members connected and combatting loneliness. 

AVSED is a Leeds Neighbourhood Network based in Yeadon and we work with over 60’s in Aireborough (Yeadon, Guiseley, Rawdon and a small portion of Apperley Bridge). Our aim is to reduce loneliness and social isolation and this is “usually” done through social groups, exercise classes, day trips and meals out.

During COVID-19 our services have changed to welfare, food shopping, prescription delivery and befriending calls. It’s a very different service which has seen many of our members unfortunately slip back into loneliness and isolation. 

We have begun to develop our digital inclusion offer to support our most vulnerable isolated members with the support of 100% Digital Leeds. Rachel at 100% Digital Leeds delivered a Digital Champion workshop for the staff team so we could better understand just how to roll out digital services to the members of our community.

She introduced us to the Good Things Foundation and the Devices Dot Now initiative which has helped fund equipment for 8 different older people who have not had access to digital in the past, and has been a great person to bounce ideas off when we need to figure out our plans. Rachel also put us in contact with Samantha at Cross Gates and District Good Neighbours so we could have some advice and support from their experience with rolling out digital.

We have provided equipment for members who have never used digital before and who are now getting more and more comfortable with learning what google is, how to watch videos on YouTube which is great! We talk them through how to use apps, explaining everything in plain English such as the difference between a tap and a swipe, what a link looks like and this gives them the confidence to build a great foundation to learn from. Game apps are also good as a way of peaking their interest in using the devices as they enjoy games that link to their interests.

We have introduced Alexa’s to some members too who live alone and would really like someone to talk to, the Alexa’s play songs to them on request and even tell them a joke! We are at the end of the phone to answer any questions, we were planning to roll out 1-2-1 digital classes with members until tier 3 restrictions were announced last week, we will now look at ways we can support people remotely with these new lockdown measures.

We received iPads from the 100% Digital Leeds Tablet Lending Scheme which we have been able to share with our members in many ways. Our staff have been able to take members on virtual welfare visits to show them the facilities at certain care homes they were considering moving to. We have used them to teach our members how to film which is shown in our Dancing Through The Decades video for International Day of Older People which was such good fun and really lifted spirits! The iPads have also enabled members to join in with Zoom sessions, even with the mayor of Leeds as well as Zoom Bingo!

Carole one of our members has learnt to use her tablet to be able to video call and speak to her son who lives down south, and has been able to read more about her hobbies, as well as learning how to use Wikipedia to learn about the town where she grew up. She has grown in confidence and now problem solves her own issues with the equipment!

One of our other members has used the iPad for a video medical review following a car accident, and others are learning how to order prescriptions which is vital at this time, as well as learning how to online shop or google phone numbers for delivery services. This is increasing their independence and ability to access a wide range of services in lockdown that they wouldn’t be able to without the technology.

We have found the current situation challenging, rolling out training has been the hardest possible thing to face, with all the lockdown restrictions in place we could not go into a members home to do the training and we could not deliver them in the building due to members clinically shielding. The weather has not been good enough to be able to teach on the doorstep either so we have had to rely on phone calls and written manuals to help.

We continue to work to overcome the barriers and challenges which is having a positive impact for our members who are now able to access digital whilst in isolation which means so much especially at this time.

Thank you to Michelle and the team at AVSED for this update, it’s fantastic to see the impact that digital is having for your members especially in the current situation.