This organisation is improving mental health of Leeds elderly through pioneering Digital Inclusion project

An organisation which launched a pioneering 'Digital Inclusion' project during the Covid pandemic has seen an incredible change in the lives of the elderly - who have been 'eager' to learn how to use technology.

Tuesday, 19th October 2021, 4:45 am

October 18 marks the start of 'Get Online Week'.

According to Good Things Foundation, more than nine million people in the UK can't get online independently.

However, one organisation in Leeds is hoping to change that statistic for their users.

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Staff at Leeds Irish Health and Homes have helped many older people become proficient in using technology to stay connected with the outside world, develop interests and stay well and safe. Pic: Leeds Irish Homes

Staff at Leeds Irish Health and Homes have helped many older people become proficient in using technology to stay connected with the outside world, develop interests and stay well and safe.

The projects main aim was to "reach both the Irish and wider community in Leeds to get them digitally connected whilst linking them into our service to interact in our digital activities that we had on offer", services manager Sarah McBride told the YEP.

"This supported people to overcome their isolation and keep them connected both digitally and culturally through the pandemic."

Launched in April 2020 just as the first lockdown began, the project - headed by digital inclusion officer Anne Pearce - has enabled more than 70 people to use the internet for social interaction.

Many of the project attendees have also used their new found skills to check their medical records online, attend sessions om partnership with Mind Well Leeds and help to improve loneliness.

Ms McBride said the sessions had been a "huge success" and she had seen a significant impact with the elderly and vulnerable.

She added: "People's confidence grew from session to session.

"Week to week we would give them different choices and everyone really connected over Zoom through the pandemic."

Ms McBride said the organisation was initially not sure how the project would go down with their users.

"Why would I need to go online? That is how we thought it might be seen.

"It has not been the case at all, the uptake has been amazing.

"We have virtual timetables each week of sessions and do music and cultural activities.

"The project is well loved by those who have benefited from it since its launch."

Project attendees have also connected with their families back in Ireland and around the globe online after learning new skills with the technology.

"One of our users listens to Midwest Radio on his tablet and says it takes him home, it makes his day.

"It has had such a big impact on everyone."

One user told the YEP her newfound skills "made her not feel alone" and described the sessions as a "lifeline" during the pandemic.

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