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New Digital Buddies volunteer project in Costessey to reduce social isolation for the elderly

PUBLISHED: 15:43 01 October 2017 | UPDATED: 15:03 02 October 2017

Teenagers helping teach technology skills to older Norfolk residents at a previous Digital Buddies project. Picture: SAFFRON HOUSING TRUST

Teenagers helping teach technology skills to older Norfolk residents at a previous Digital Buddies project. Picture: SAFFRON HOUSING TRUST

SAFFRON HOUSING TRUST

Children and teenagers are teaming up with older people to boost technical skills as well as reduce social isolation.

The Digital Buddies scheme will get youngsters aged 10-19 in Norwich’s Costessey area interacting and teaching digital skills to residents at Grays Fair Court on Dereham Road, Norwich, for 10 weeks from October 9.

After Christmas the same scheme will move to Ogden Close in Wymondham, involving youngsters from that area.

The voluntary project is being led by Hingham-based community interest company Pop Up Enterprises, Saffron Housing, MTM Youth Services and South Norfolk Council.

It has received £5,000 from Norfolk Community Foundation.

Tom Gaskin, founder of Pop Up Enterprises, said: “The project launched in Diss in 2016/17 and was incredibly successful. Both young and old people loved it. It was a two-way thing which enabled them to learn from each other.”

During each two-hour session the young volunteers will teach practical skills on smartphones, tablets and laptop computers including banking online, accessing different advice services and downloading apps and games.

Mr Gaskin added a popular aspect of the course for the older participants, aged 60 and over, in the Diss project was learning how to communicate to relatives and friends via Skype and Facebook.

The online communication, as well as the weekly interaction with digital buddies, helped alleviate social isolation.

“Technology can be a fantastic enabler for people to have contact with their friends and family, Mr Gaskin said.

“The project in Diss evolved from young people supporting older people with the technology into a social project. It has breathed life back in sheltered housing schemes and changed things for the residents involved.”

Some 17 people aged 13-18 became digital buddies for the initial project, which helped 17 older people over six months.

Since then, the residents who learned skills have bought their own tablets or smartphones and have stayed in contact with the volunteers.

Mr Gaskin said the project made the young volunteers feel “valued”.

Training for volunteers will be provided. To get involved contact Mr Gaskin on 07515563536 or email tom@popupenterprises.org.uk

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