Online access in sheltered housing has widespread benefits

20 March 2012

In one year the Get Digital programme – commissioned by the Department for Communities and Local Government and funded by the Department of Work and Pensions – provided 196 sheltered homes with grants to set up kit and online facilities and engaged around 3,000 older residents in digital skills activities.

The evaluation report – published on Friday 16 March 2011 – studies the learning journey and outcomes of residents who took part in the whole 16-week learning programme at their schemes and recognises, amongst other things, the provision of skilled tutors that accompanied the online facilities as a key factor in the scheme’s success. Older residents felt supported and it enabled them to learn at a flexible pace and according to their own needs and interests. As a result there was a marked improvement in their quality of life ranging from increased self-confidence, greater freedom resulting from access to online information, more willingness to take up different learning activities and stronger social relationships with family, friends and other residents.

The evaluation report also formed the basis of a rationale report outlining Get Digital’s multiple benefits to landlords – including how the investment can become a business asset and selling point for attracting future residents and how staff involved in planning and managing the delivery of the learning activities reported increased job satisfaction. As a result of the strong business case presented in the rationale report, many participating landlords have stated that they will be delivering digital inclusion across their housing stock. Some have placed digital inclusion within their community development strategies and it is expected that both the evaluation and the rationale reports will encourage even more landlords to make further investments in digital literacy initiatives for older residents.

Philip Taylor, Neighbourhood Team Manager, Medina Housing Association, said:

“Spectrum Medina were delighted to participate in the Get Digital programme which proved to be a great success for residents, partners and staff. The evaluation shows the wider success of Get Digital in dispelling the myth that computers are not for older people, while the rationale gives convincing reasons to develop such facilities and by engaging residents, staff and partners shows how success can be achieved. This has given us the encouragement to go further and we are investing in computer facilities across our sheltered schemes in 2012.”

Susan Easton, NIACE’s Get Digital programme manager, said:

“Two thirds of those over the age of 65 in sheltered housing are not connected to the internet, or don’t have the skills to use it, and are therefore missing out on the many benefits of being online. By supporting the digital inclusion of older people in sheltered housing, the Get Digital programme has helped a significant number of older people to develop their IT skills and to be more confident in the use of technology. This in turn has empowered them to make important decisions about issues affecting their lives. Get Digital will also inspire more landlords to develop their own digital inclusion programmes and the rationale report makes recommendations on how landlords can develop successful programmes in a sustainable and cost-effective way.”

Emma Solomon, Managing Director of Digital Unite, said:

“Digital Unite has been delivering digital literacy programmes in sheltered housing environments for over ten years, and we have long known of the multiple benefits, to a range of stakeholders, of such initiatives. The Get Digital programme was exceptional because it was delivered at such scale, and it has been fascinating – and inspiring – to examine the findings of the evaluation report.”