Why Digital Boomers has blown my mind…….and really challenged my own preconceptions about older people and technology.
So, we’ve all seen the memes on the internet – older people and technology is funny right? People looking the wrong way into a camera, not knowing how to switch on their new smart phone….
I’ve been on a personal journey of discovery along with some committed pioneers in the last few months exploring the question:
“How can technology be better used across Essex to promote independent living for older people?”
Throughout the digital boomers insight phase – sitting with, listening to, watching and talking with older people and their families, carers, professionals, clinicians, volunteers – I’ve had to completely change my view about older people and technology. Here’s a flavour of what we found:
1. Older people are more tech savvy than they realise and professionals and family members regularly underestimate this: we are a significant limiting factor through our unsubstantiated but deeply held assumptions
2. Older people trust their peers to recommend tech and share experiences, and are happy to learn from young people - they would also trust professionals to recommend health related tech
3. Older people want to have fun with tech and don’t want to be targeted as ‘old people’
4. Older people want to use tech to connect with their loved ones, and sometimes have a competitive streak when adopting new knowledge
5. Not every community has a go-to knowledgeable ‘techie’ person for advice and support, but where they do, it builds confidence and increases take-up
6. Older people don’t feel they are doing tech ‘right’ and are just getting by – but this isn’t stopping them having a go
7. Our community and voluntary sectors risk being left behind digitally by a lack of investment in skills and infrastructure due to old-style funding models – we could be providing vital support to older people with the right training and investment
And – as significantly – here’s what we didn’t find:
o We didn’t find a single person who had been recommended digital technology by a health or care professional to help with daily living or their health and wellbeing – and we spoke to a lot of people
o We only found one professional in Essex whose job it was specifically to help patients use technology as part of a rehabilitation process.
Essentially, our research identified that technology is already an established part of everyday life for older people (just as it is for the rest of us!), except when it comes to their health and care needs.
This is a massive gap – and a massive opportunity – and the Digital Boomers programme is now all about where we go from here.
So what do we do now?
We’ve emerged from this work with a simple, but bold shared vision:
“By 2021, older people in Essex are the most tech confident in the world.”
And we really believe we can achieve this by galvanizing people, communities, the third sector, business, academia and health and care organisations to work together. Our focus is on 6 areas for action which we think we can make significant progress on if we pool our efforts and go on this journey together:
What’s important is how we now take this work forward – the approach we take to making this change – as much as what we are aiming to achieve. So here’s some things we think need to guide us:
Let’s explore and skill-up together: let it be inter-organisational, across sectors or mixing citizens and professionals. We need to learn together, play with tech together, build confidence together – not in silos and not using technology as a source of power or control between care givers and recipients of care.
Inter-generational: older people love learning from and sharing skills with their peers, but they are also really willing and keen to be shown stuff by their grandchildren and younger people. Let’s exploit this opportunity for the benefit of us all.
Community-led: there are lots of skilled people already in our communities who can help with the day to day niggles that can undermine confidence. We need to use this resource to build skills and confidence – and just to help each other out.
Influenced and shaped by older people: we want to see older people really shaping what we do and how we do it, and supporting each other. We hope that the Digital Boomers platform will help with some of this joining up and build resources with and for older people. We have our first 80 year old vlogger lined up to help with some basics……
Watch this space – and join us.
Digital Boomers is not a top down programme – this is about fundamental social change. And that will only happen by people and organisations with a shared passion stepping up and stepping in. We don’t have all the answers – but we’re giving it a go and we’d love you to join us, share your experiences, profile your own work, offer help if you can – and just generally get stuck in.
And whilst we love Essex and believe we can be world leaders – we’d welcome a bit of healthy competition and some company. So if you’d like to bring Digital Boomers to your area do get in touch.
Get in touch:
Find us on Twitter @RethinkPartners or take a look at our Digital Boomers Facebook page @DigitalBoomersEssex to discover more about our plans! Download the report for free and tell us what you think at www.rethinkpartners.co.uk
Clare Morris is Co Founder at RETHINK Partners