Another appeal to end loneliness at Christmas

A year ago, I pledged to do all I can to end loneliness for older people at Christmas, when I wrote this post. Quite a lot has happened since then, but not nearly enough.


There are still people who will be lonely this Christmas, and many of these people would have someone to talk to if only they could overcome their fears of new technology and connect with someone on Skype, Facetime, or FaceBOOK.

So, this is an appeal. If you are organising a Christmas Party for older people, for £300 I will turn it into a Connected Christmas Party, like this one. I will work with you to show the people at your party what fun connecting with people online can be, how they can re-kindle memories and make their lives easier. This is too important an issue to leave to those who say that technology has passed them by.

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Please let me work with you to make loneliness at Christmas a thing of the past. Contact me via

The Art of Conversation – Bringing together YouTubers and Older Residents

Is conversation really a lost art? Can it bridge the digital divide by pairing older residents with younger YouTubers?

OAP Internet Virgins on Sky 1

OAP Internet Virgins on Sky 1

Inspired by the television show OAP Internet Virgins on Sky1, I am working with Age Friendly Leeds  to re-imagine the art of conversation in a one day workshop where older residents will be paired with YouTubers. These conversations will be recorded and shared online.

The aim is to bring together some younger Leeds residents who know their way around the internet and spend their lives online, probably through making YouTube videos, and get them to persuade older residents that there are many benefits in the internet for them.

If you are a Leeds based YouTuber and want to take part, please click here to get in touch via Twitter.

There will be an announcement shortly about the venue, but the event will be taking place on Friday 4th December.

Let’s Make this a Connected Christmas

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It’s nearly Christmas. Yes, it’s coming round again, doesn’t it seem to come faster every year?

Last year, I declared my determination to make sure no older person was lonely at Christmas if technology could play a role in connecting them to others. To that end, I teamed up with Trafford Council and Trafford Housing Trust to add digital elements to a Christmas Party taking place at Royle Higginson Court in Urmston as a demonstration of what is possible. You can read about that here.

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Since then, I’ve run further digital tea parties in Whitby and Leeds. But I still hear people saying “older people don’t do digital”. Well a lot do, and the rest won’t unless they experience tangible demonstrations of the benefits it can bring to them in settings that are familiar to them. That’s what the Connected Christmas Party is about. If I can help a few more older people Skype their relatives on Christmas Day rather than sitting alone wondering what they are doing, I will consider that progress on the road to ending isolation.

So, if you are running a Christmas Party for older people this year, please let me work with you to make it a Connected Christmas. For not very much money I can help you open your attendees lives up to the endless possibilities of digital connections. Let’s do this, please get in touch.

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Announcement: – The #HousingDay NewsRoom

Sponsored by Lewisham Homes


#HousingDay is approaching fast. The annual opportunity for people who live and work in social housing to celebrate what they do and show the world the positive sides of their lives and work is now in its third year, and, in 2015, it falls on Wednesday 18th November.

This year’s #HousingDay theme is “Proud to be a Tenant”, and social landlords are being asked to work with tenants to celebrate the positive aspects of being a social housing tenant and provide a platform to counter all the negative mainstream media stereotypes.

For #HousingDay last year, I ran the #HousingDay RoadTrip when I drove over 700 miles visiting social landlords from Leeds to West Kent and South Wales to highlight some of the great work they were doing. The trip was sponsored by Documotive, software supplier to the sector.

The RoadTrip was great, it was invigorating, inspiring, and educational. But it was also exhausting. So, this year, my plan is different…. and static.

For this year’s event, I am planning the #HousingDay NewsRoom. I am going to get together with some other social media users to run a news room which will curate, highlight, and amplify some of the best content coming out of the day. There will be an hourly, live-streamed news bulletin running through the events so far and providing a high profile platform for great stories emerging on the day.

I am already very grateful to the support of Comms Hero founders Resource for agreeing to provide the base for the NewsRoom at their offices in Leeds. What I need now is other social media users with an interest in social housing to come and join me on the day to help run the NewsRoom. It will be a lot of fun and we will all learn a lot. Come and join me in Leeds on 18th November.

A momentum is building from year-to-year and each #HousingDay can be more prominent and high profile than the last. Help me make the NewsRoom a success and contribute to the best #HousingDay yet.

ReMindMeCare – An aid for dementia

I am very pleased to be live-streaming the launch of ReMindMeCare this coming Monday, 26th October.

RemindMeCare enhances the lives of people with dementia, their carers and families. It works by stimulating long term memories through a personalised library of the images, sounds and music that shaped their lives. There is a free version for family carers and subscription based packages available for care provider organisations which work on any Internet-enabled device. The system learns through use and interaction and stores its history, becoming customised to each person and is always immediately ready to use.

There’s still time to grab a free ticket if you’d like to attend the launch in person at IDEALondon in Shoreditch. But, if you can’t make it, then tune it to the live stream from 2pm on Monday, and join in the conversation on Twitter using the hashtag #ReMeCare

“Non-Core” – An Urgent Call to Save Social Housing’s added value services

The last few months have not been good for social housing. Or at least not good for those who believe that low-cost rented accommodation provides people on low incomes with a vital bit of stability in their lives. It has become clear that the current government doesn’t share this view, and, indeed, as Jules Birch pointed out recently, it appears that their view is that social housing actively contributes to people’s poverty by diverting them from the aspiration of owning their own homes. Whether you share this latter belief or not, you cannot ignore that major changes are happening in the sector, with funding being shifted away from subsidising rents to encouraging low-cost home ownership, a 1% rent cut being imposed across the board, and Right-to-Buy being extended to housing association tenants, albeit the latter now being arranged via a “voluntary” agreement brokered by the National Housing Federation rather than by legislation.

And now housing magazine “Inside Housing” has produced a survey [paywall] which suggests that 72.1% of social landlords are cutting back on “non-core” activities as a result of the changed situation. They have decided that reduced funding and an uncertain policy environment mean that concentrating on managing the bricks and mortar is their best chance of survival. And so, community development, employment generation, and digital inclusion are just some of the activities which are being jettisoned as the hatches are battened down.

But if social landlords are not going to deliver these services who is? It can be argued that people who live in social housing need these services more than ever in the current climate, and, certainly in the case of digital inclusion, cutting back on such services is classic cutting-off-the-nose-to-spite-the-face territory, as the advent of Universal Credit will severely threaten landlords’ ability to collect rents if tenants are unable to manage their finances online. And I can tell you this is happening as I am experiencing loss of work myself as organisations disinvest from such actions.

Local government is hardly in a position to step in and pick up these services as it has experienced its own series of drastic cuts since 2010. And, despite the current Prime Minister’s early championing of the Big Society, it has always been clear that unpaid voluntary activity thrives in leafy suburbs and villages, not necessarily on social housing estates. So, activities which aid tenants’ well-being, incomes, and ability to pay their rents are starting to disappear. This will surely exacerbate the situation.

Something needs to be done about this. I am therefore starting a “Non-Core Watch”. If you know of a social landlord cutting back on activities which improve tenants’ lives beyond the provision of a house then please describe it in the comments below, and raise awareness on social media using the hashtag #noncore. We need to understand what is happening and begin to organise action to save such services before it is too late for our communities.

Digital Commonwealth – More Proof of the Power of Storytelling

Last Thursday I travelled to Ayr for the final event of the Digital Commonwealth project. I have really enjoyed working on this project, led by the University of the West of Scotland, which used the Glasgow Commonwealth games as a hook to encourage school children, community groups, students, and individuals to tell digital stories about themselves, their hopes and aspirations, and about their relationship with the Commonwealth.

If you haven’t seen it yet, the project documentary film is at the bottom of this post, and this provides a really great overview of what digital storytelling is about.

One of the key parts of Thursday evening was when some residents of a sheltered housing complex in Rutherglen were given the opportunity to read some of their own poems and stories, and to sing songs which they had contributed to the project.  I found this extremely moving, and it further reinforced my view that storytelling is vital to older people’s health and well-being. There were some really poignant and moving stories being told, and almost all the people involved started the process by asserting that they had nothing of interest to say. That is rarely the case as Digital Commonwealth has proved.

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This is the video age

I love video, I do a lot of it. Both live and recorded. Video is important for a whole variety of reasons. But I think there is something about the proliferation of video that some people overlook.

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Video gives you confidence. In recent years I have upgraded several laptops, replaced an iPad screen, and fixed a boiler, all as a result of watching “how to” videos on Youtube. I would never have done any of these things if I hadn’t watched a video which showed step-by-step how to do it. The fact that I had seen another human being doing it gave me the confidence to believe I could do it myself. Video can do this. Video can give you confidence to do things. Video can inspire. So can seeing people do things in the flesh, of course, but with Youtube you can call up someone doing something you need to learn in an instant. It’s not so easy to get them to come round your house to demonstrate it.

Me being interviewed by BBC North West Tonight at the #twicket match

And yet, there are lots of people who are missing out on the benefits online video brings. I am talking about the people who work in offices where video streaming sites are blocked, or where the computers don’t have sound cards, or where there are no speakers, or where they are not allowed to plug headphones in. Or, in some cases all of these. They are oblivious to the opportunities which are being opened up by the age of ubiquitous video, both for themselves and for the people they work with.

That’s a pity. We should tell them about it. Maybe send them a fax.

Where are the tenant digital leaders?

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What did you do last Saturday? Well I got up at 5am, hopped on a train to London and spent the day at HousingCamp with, what turned out to be a relatively small, but very engaged, bunch of housing professionals. It was a great day, with lots of interesting discussion, and I left feeling, as I did at HouseParty in June, that, events like this provide spaces where those who retain a sense of optimism, despite the turmoil the social housing sector is going through, can come together and find common cause with others of a similar mindset.

I shot the video below of the final session where those who had stayed to the end expressed their thoughts on what they would take away from the day. It includes my assertion that the day had provided the opportunity to launch a nationwide network of digitally savvy tenants.

This is something I’ve been working on for some time now. I firmly believe that one of the most effective ways of countering the negative propaganda put out by some of the mainstream media, and some politicians, about the people who live in social housing is to ensure that tenants are empowered to tell positive stories about their lives and their communities, and to use digital media in doing so. So far, in the work I have done on social media with tenants I have tended to work with the existing tenant representative structures. I’ve met some lovely people doing this, and have seen a number of lightbulb moments as they have “got” social media. But, by and large, it is not the traditional tenant activists who are going to provide digital leadership. There are lots of, possibly younger, tenants who are active on social media, but they probably tend not to associate themselves with tenants associations and the like.

I have met a few digitally savvy tenants. Some face-to-face, and some online. But, as far as I can see, they don’t generally organise around housing issues. There are, of course, some very notable exceptions to this rule, some related to the causes embraced by Russell Brand in London. But I really want now to start on creating a national network of digitally savvy social housing tenants to provide a social media voice for tenants and their daily concerns. If you are such a tenant, or you can help with support, money and resources in getting the network going, please get in touch.

Ageing Digital – Regular Broadcasts

I am planning to start a series of regular online broadcasts discussing how new technologies can be used to make older people’s lives better and break down social isolation.

The broadcasts will be via Google Hangout, all you will need is a laptop, tablet or smartphone and an internet connection and you will be able to take part.

If you would like to be involved, please let me know.

And please don’t forget my DigiCamper crowd funding campaign to launch the Digital Inclusion Campervan.