No fog on the Tyne

AlnmouthThe adventure began with a visit to two of the social care organisations we are working with as part of Lasa Connecting Care.

On Thursday after a brief detour to see the sea at Alnmouth (you have to) and Barter Books (you also have to!) I met the staff at Abbeyfield in Alnwick. This is a great example of a residential social care provider who are innovating and really keen to try new ideas.

We talked about the routine (but necessary) things like data back-up and having IT support in place (both being addressed). I showed them the services available from CTX and Get Online At Home (very useful) and we discussed electronic care plans (all still on paper). But the thing that impressed me most was the way they are using ipads with their residents. (Or should I say, ‘the painting book’ and ‘the music’ … Words like iPad and Tablet are strictly off-limits!)

An artist from ipad engAGE is visiting the home once a week to help residents discover how art and creative apps can transform their lives. Oh that’s so easy to say, but does it really happen? Well on Friday afternoon two residents who usually stayed in their rooms were writing poetry together, listening to music and exploring new interests. Previously a 98 year old resident had been painting. Incredible!

Then on Friday it was off to Horden further down the coast near Hartlepool looking at the work done by the Youth and Community Centre there. With 45% of the community having no formal qualifications and many children growing up in homes with no Internet access this building is really a vital digital centre for the community. They run some formal classes, but the informal drop in sessions to use the web, apply for jobs or complete paperwork are most popular and made me think. With the Job Centre requiring people to have an e-mail address, one to one support to help people overcome this hurdle and simply learn how to send an e-mail was in great demand. They are also about start using tablets (can I use that word?) with groups that are older (post-work) and younger (pre-school). Truly an intergenerational heart of the community, helping people of all ages who want to gain digital skills.

I missed seeing the Northern Lights (argh!), but clearly saw two examples where social care and community care are being provided by forward thinking staff teams.

A final thought from Abbeyfield about both their home and their use of technology, ‘We can worry about the frills & colours later, we need to get the strategic view right first, but make sure that it’s centred around the needs of residents’.

We take so much for granted in the devices we own and how we use technology, but without basic e-mail access or a reliable, affordable office computer or the benefit of trying tablet computing it’s easy to feel shut out. What are we doing to remedy this and show our community the benefits of the digital world?


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