Young people help the older generation get online and stay connected

17 February 2017

Young people have been teaching the elderly new tricks in an exciting intergenerational project in Diss.

The Diss Digital Buddies project, led by Saffron Housing Trust, is encouraging young people to help older people to use the internet and gain confidence with technology. Volunteers, aged between 13 and 19 years old, have been introducing the older generation to laptops, tablets and smart phones; creating an email account; shopping online; joining Facebook and video calling.

The buddy programme has been a huge success with both groups. One older person that took part in Diss Digital Buddies said: “I’ve loved it, everyone has been very useful and kind. Young people don’t usually mix with our age range so it’s great as it’s a two way thing and they can learn from us too. It’s also helped me to feel a bit safer as I worry less when I see groups of youngsters about.”

Another 97-year-old participant has already brought her own tablet and is looking forward to using her new skills online. The intergenerational programme – which has taken place at sheltered schemes in Thomas Manning Road and Clare House – helped one woman visit the communal room for the first time in over a year, after she had suffered a breakdown.

The young people - also known as Digital Buddies - involved have excelled by learning skills from the older generation and building their confidence. One of the volunteers said that the project had given her an opportunity to meet new people and make new friends, while also developing her soft skills.

Lorna Bradford, 18, another volunteer, said: “It gave me more confidence in speaking to people generally and it really helped me learn how to start conversations with people from another generation who I wouldn't normally talk to. It gave me new social skills.”

Diss Digital Buddies is funded by a £5
,000 grant from Norfolk County Council as part of the 2016 Norfolk Youth Social Action Fund, an initiative piloted in the Eastern region by the Cabinet Office.  Following this successful pilot, the Big Lottery Fund and the Office for Civil Society have invested £2million this year to fund groups delivering local youth social action opportunities nationwide. Norfolk County Council is a funding partner in the programme for Norfolk which is delivered by Norfolk Community Foundation, and aims to raise the level and quality of youth social action - applications for the next round of funding are open until Monday 20 March. To find out more about the criteria and to apply, visit the Norfolk Community Foundation website.

The programme's aim is to increase youth social action by 50% by 2020, taking the percentage of young people that volunteer from 40% to 60%. From Diss Digital Buddies' launch in November 2016, it has enabled a total of 14 young people to participate in youth social action by supporting 16 older people to improve their digital literacy. Three of the young people have asked to continue volunteering with the project.

Alison Thomas, Deputy Leader of Norfolk County Council, said: “I am really pleased to have supported the project and it is great to see it bringing people together. It is nice to see young people interacting positively with older people and both groups getting something out of it.

"Applications for the grant are still open to local youth groups and other organisations. We are looking forward to seeing a number of different projects working to increase volunteering in Norfolk.”

The volunteers' training included:

  • An introduction to youth social action
  • Ideal skills and qualities of a Digital Buddy 
  • Benefits and risks of being online
  • Effective communication skills 
  • Working with older people 
  • Sharing digital skills 
By breaking down barriers and helping older people to stay connected, it is a project helping to combat loneliness. The In Good Company campaign aims to make sure no one in Norfolk spends a lonely day in the county if they don't want to. Working with partners, the campaign signposts and highlights the services available and encourages people to pledge to make a difference. To find out more about the campaign and to make a pledge, people can visit the In Good Company page on our website and tweet using #NoLonelyDay.

For editors:

  • Social action involves activities such as campaigning, fundraising and volunteering
  • The definition of young people is between 10 and 20, and up to 25 for disabled young people
  • Big Lottery Fund and the Office for Civil Society have invested £2million this year to fund groups delivering local youth social action opportunities. Local fundraising is also a key part of the Youth Social Action programme
  • The project was nominated for Community Group of the Year in the South Norfolk Community Awards
  • The project is due to complete in early April 2017

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