"It gives me a reason to put on my lipstick" - virtual coffee mornings keep isolated pensioners in touch

A digital project that has been set up by the council and health services is keeping the elderly in touch despite the coronavirus lockdown.

Monday, 27th April 2020, 5:00 pm
Updated Monday, 27th April 2020, 5:58 pm

The 100% Digital Leeds team, jointly funded by NHS Leeds Clinical Commissioning Group and Leeds City Council, is working with community and voluntary groups across the city who would usually be hosting face to face groups and events to tackle social isolation and loneliness.

It has helped the groups to improve their digital capacity and capability so that they can stay in touch with some of the most vulnerable people in the city.

One such example has seen a Neighbourhood Network Scheme go online to keep its weekly get-togethers going.

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Members of the 100% Digital Leeds project staying in touch. Top row: Jim Daley ,Samantha Haggart, Ernest Walker, Barbara and Michael Lloyd, Christine Bates, Second row: David Smith, Melvin Lamb, Danny Buckley, Jackie Lawrence, Brian Sugden, Third row: Shirley Vardy, Lind and Gerry Pitts, Marie Broadhead , Sandra Davis, Marion Smith, Fourth row: Stephen Bostridge, Christine Holdstock, Damian & Diane Marsden, Catherine Heselwood.

Cross Gates Good Neighbours Scheme, which supports older people to live independently, has been working with 100% Digital Leeds to deliver weekly coffee mornings online using Zoom. Within those sessions they still host the regular Wednesday 'Show n Tell' and quizzes on a Friday.

Marie is one of the elderly folk that logs in to the coffee mornings.

The 79-year-old said: "These virtual coffee mornings give me a reason to get up in a morning, a reason to put my lipstick on. It’s very lonely so it’s really nice to be able to see others, it brightens my days.”

Rachel Benn, Digital Inclusion Coordinator for 100% Digital Leeds, said: “Thanks to our training and support, Digital Champions now support their peers to engage in these virtual sessions. The organisation has developed a programme of Zoom sessions, offering a different session every day, and has taken an important role in sharing their learning with other organisations. This has proven to be a vital way for people to stay connected with neighbours and friends while maintaining social distancing.”

A Leeds GP says that while there has been a focus on physical health during the coronavirus crisis, the impact on mental health is just as important and that the difference projects such as 100% Digital Leeds has been recognised by GP practices.

Dr George Winder, from Oakwood Lane Medical Practice and who is also the clinical lead for new models of care for NHS Leeds CCG, said: “While many of us will be worried about the direct health impacts of coronavirus, it’s easy to forget that the lockdown and social distancing measures will lead to social isolation and loneliness. 100% Digital Leeds helps to tackle this, showing that staying connected is not hard as you might think and can be quite fun too.

“As a GP I’ve seen first-hand how 100% Digital Leeds has helped our GP practice even before the coronavirus pandemic. Accessing the digital world helps people manage their money, deal with housing issues, enjoy leisure and stay connected. This all contributes to positive health and mental wellbeing for everyone.”

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