Housing associations can play a key role in alleviating social isolation and loneliness – particularly by getting older residents to engage with technology. Used in the right way, technology can help provide better access to news and information, as well as improve communication with friends, family members and housing providers themselves.
In a recent edition of Inside Housing, Jane Ashcroft, Chief Executive of housing and social care provider Anchor Hanover, discusses how they have launched a ‘Tea and Technology’ project with the primary aim of bridging the gap between older people and technology. As part of this project, Anchor Hanover used ‘a community fund to purchase tablets and train volunteers to open up the digital world to a whole new audience’. Housing Proactive, from Alertacall, is a service with technology at its heart. Therefore, the team is always excited to hear about projects like this which help residents get the most out of using smart devices.
Housing Proactive is a system for managing properties with higher needs customers. Customers engage with a range of devices each day to collect news, updates and other important information in relation to their property or tenancy. Devices range from specially designed phones to tablets.
Importantly for us, the technology provided is never a substitute for human contact. Those residents not engaging with their device are called by a member of our highly trained team to establish contact, verify occupancy and to relay any further information from the housing provider for that day.
This is something that can often be overlooked by technology providers (which often view humans as a cost to be removed – think supermarket self-checkouts). Indeed, many new Assistive Technology innovations focus on remote monitoring without considering the impact of reduced personal contact. Our technology puts the residents in control of how they interact with our team and the housing provider – they have the choice whether to speak to a member of our team 365 days a year or not. As a result, the system enables individuals to stay independent for longer and as a further by-product can also help to alleviate loneliness.
The article by Ashcroft looks at how as a society the ways in which we consume media has changed, and the impact this has had on older people:
Traditional mass media has provided a vital link for some older people to the outside world.
However, the way in which the media landscape is changing is having a negative impact on the connectivity of older people.
Many older people rely heavily on local newspapers as a source of information but the fact that a quarter of all regional and local newspapers have closed in the past decade has left many older people feeling more isolated than ever before.
This trend was highlighted by Robert Halfon, MP for Harlow in Essex, when he spoke of how older people in his constituency are so starved of information after their local newspapers closed that they are now calling his office for news updates.
It also presents some interesting statistics on technology usage by those in later life:
We tend to take technology for granted and how easy it is for most of us to stay connected with family, friends, the news and entertainment digitally.
But we shouldn’t assume that everyone has the internet and online news at their fingertips.
In 2018, only 44% of those aged 75 and over were recent internet users, with ONS suggesting the majority of this age group still do not have access to the online world.
These statistics highlight why Alertacall provides a range of devices. Tablet usage is increasing but it is not yet for the majority in this demographic.
And as for the results from the Anchor Hanover ‘Tea and Technology’ project – well, it has certainly seen some positive outcomes:
Tea & Technology is reaching the people who need it the most and they are relishing the opportunity.
Participants tell us they are enjoying the sessions and feel more confident in handling their mobile phones and tablets.
One 73-year-old resident even asked her GP to take her off her antidepressant medication as the internet had opened up a new world for her to explore. She swapped tablets for a tablet!
This all demonstrates how housing providers can play a vital role in helping older residents to get the most out of technology. Furthermore, housing providers using the right technology in the right way can have far-reaching benefits, including helping to reduce loneliness amongst residents.
For more information on how your organisation and residents can benefit from Housing Proactive, email Benjamin Lambert, Head of Client Relations at firstname.lastname@example.org or call us on 0808 208 1234
Ashcroft, J. (2019). Bridging the gap between older people and technology. [online] Inside Housing. Available at: https://www.insidehousing.co.uk/comment/comment/bridging-the-gap-between-older-people-and-technology-60173 [Accessed 6 Mar. 2019].