30th September 2022
A Wicklow initiative that provides older persons with access and training to digital technology has been described as “outstanding,” giving participants more confidence and improving their quality of life. Explaining the background, Rena Byrne, Public Health Nurse and Respite Co-ordinator, Community Healthcare East, noted how Covid 19 had brought with it “unprecedented restrictions for older persons living at home often leading to social frailty. Many of those people were disconnected in two ways – in their isolation at home but secondly in their perceived inability and experience in using digital technology. So we set out to ensure that these people would not be left behind as they re-emerged back into society.”
Rena also explains how they identified the important role that digital champions played – individuals supporting the participants on a one to one basis in training and assisting – in helping to build a basic level of competence.”
Accordingly, Rena describes the results as “transformative in terms of re building social connectivity and developing significant gains in terms of digital mastery.”
The project had a hugely positive impact on the mood of those involved and it renewed social engagement. Amongst the feedback they received, were reflections from one participant who said the project “lifted us an awful lot.” Another said their spirits were “dampened but now we’re living again.” On the specifics, another participant noted how they weren’t able to travel to Dublin to see a Consultant: “He asked me if I had a smartphone. I told him I had just finished my digital project. It was amazing. It was like talking to him in the hospital. As a result of that online meeting I ended up going for an x-ray and found I had a cracked rib. It was all very impressive.”
Rena also acknowledged the invaluable financial support for the project from the Community Foundation for Ireland ‘Demand for Digital’ and the ongoing support from the Department of Social Protection towards Community Employment staff to support the companion ‘buddy’ system.
Watch this video to hear from Rena, some of the participants, and the digital champions.