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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.


“From sitting there doing absolutely nothing; my life is filling up”

Margaret and Harry from OAP Internet Virgins Episode 5

The title of this post is a quote from 83 year-old Margaret, the subject of Episode 5 of Sky 1’s “OAP Internet Virgins“.  This excellent series continued last Thursday with another brilliant case study of how to ignite older people’s interest in the internet.

This time, Youtuber Harry Hitchens was leading Margaret through her first steps online. Avid knitter Margaret was soon marvelling at the time that would be saved searching for wool shops as she saw them all laid out on Google Maps. She gave the lie to the idea that older people are not generally online, as one of her drivers was that all her friends are “… on everything except me, So now I can join them”.

The quote in the headline came after Margaret had attended a craft class which she had found and booked online. And this is an important point. To those who think that being digital means being sat at home staring at a screen, this programme, as with others in the series, demonstrated that being digital can open up whole new possibilities for going out and participating in activities which they would not otherwise have been aware of.

And the programme finished with Margaret and Harry touring the district recreating in digital form the photographs that Margaret had taken with her husband who had died 15 years earlier.

If you’d like to work with me on these kinds of approaches to digital inclusion please get in touch.

And please don’t forget my crowd funder for DigiCamper, the ultimate digital inclusion vehicle.

Digital Tea Party – Working with the Asda Foundation


This Friday I’ll be running another Digital Tea Party, and this is one with a difference. This Tea Party is being supported by Asda Foundation as part of Asda’s 50th Birthday celebrations. I am really pleased to be working with Asda on this, and I am extremely grateful to the inestimable and indefatigable Emma Bearman for helping to make it all possible.

The event will take place at Westerton Close, Tingley, Leeds and we are working with ASDA Morley who will be providing food and drink, including, of course, a cake, as well as supplying a couple of Android tablets to help get residents online.

As you probably know, I’ve been working hard to promote the idea that the best way to get older people online is to present new technologies in familiar, fun, environments, and to seek to find digital champions from within groups rather than forcing everyone to try to use equipment they are not comfortable with from day one. And it is further pleasing that Asda have come on board with this particular event as I have been advocating for some time that companies who want people to use their digital services need to get involved with assisting those who struggle to use them.

There will be plenty of social media content associated with the event, which takes place between 1pm and 3pm this Friday (7th August). And look out out as well for some of the other exciting things Asda is doing to mark its 50th anniversary, including the recent “Cake My Day” Campervan tour.

OAP Internet Virgins – The Youtube Florist

Irene and Mawaan

Another excellent episode of “OAP Internet Virgins”. In Episode 3, former florist and flower arranging teacher, 77 year-old Irene, was tempted online by YouTuber and Standup Comedian Mawaan Rizwan.

And not only did Irene find being online a life-enhancing experience, but by the end of the programme she was running her own YouTube channel giving instructions on flower-arranging.

Once again this programme has given much need public exposure to the techniques necessary to get older people interested in the online world and to sustain their use to make their lives better in the long run. If you’d like to work with me on making this approach a reality for the people you work with, please get in touch.

#ageingdigital – Pushing through the frustrations



On Tuesday, 30 or so of us gathered at Age UK’s headquarters in London to discuss the issue of using technology to improve the quality of older people’s lives. The story of what happened on the day is here.

It was a great event with lots of passionate discussion, and not a little frustration being expressed. The really big frustration is that relatively large sums of money are being dedicated to older people’s quality of life initiatives with no mention of technology in their plans. This has been true recently of the Big Lottery’s Fulfilling Lives: Ageing Better programme, worth £78m, as it has of the £50m investment the same body made into the Centre for Ageing Better. The room on Tuesday was full of the frustration of people struggling to help older people benefit from the digital world on small resources. Key messages from the day included:

  • Nobody is too old to benefit from new technologies – we should stop assuming they are;
  • Many of the older people who express no interest in new technologies radically change their view when the possibilities are demonstrated to them.

If you still don’t believe this last point, then, please just watch the TV series “OAP Internet Virgins”.

I made an appeal at the event for suggestions on how to engage with organisations that lead policy on ageing. Freelancers like me don’t have the resources to spend lots of time lobbying people face to face. But, if organisations are immune to any kind of digital engagement, then how else can we do this?

David Wilcox has written a great post on where we go from here. From my point of view I will carry on doing the work I have developed so far (see here for some examples), and will be helping to curate online conversations around the hashtag #ageingdigital. I’m also thinking of starting a regular series of live Hangouts on the subject, please shout out if you would like to participate in these.

“OAP Internet Virgins” – Episode 2 – Wow!

Roman and Rose from Episode 2 of “OAP Internet Virgins”

I’ve only just had the chance to catch up with Episode 2 of “OAP Internet Virgins” and wow! If anything it might have been better than the first one. Once again it really got to the crux of the drivers to getting older people online for the first time and, front and centre again was the fact that the internet is important to people because of the human connections it allows them to make.

This week 22 year-old Roman Kemp took on the challenge of inducting 71 year-old Rose to the online world. Rose was a willing participant as her 7 grandchildren were at the centre of her life and she recognised they were living their lives in different ways to her. “I want to be in their world”, she said “I don’t want to feel left behind”.

An early win for Roman was that he found they supported the same football team, Arsenal, and they were soon getting updates on the game, and sharing the joy at goals scored. They moved on to finding Rose’s favourite music, and then ventured into Facebook. Rose was joyful as her children and grandchildren started sending her friend requests. And then came a shock as she was friended by her sister-in-law in Canada who she hadn’t seen for 25 years. “How can that be? She’s in Canada” was Rose’s reaction. Roman patiently explained that Facebook is a worldwide network, and that people in Canada can use it too. Rose’s reaction was a mixture of shock, surprise and joy at the realisation that she could now be in contact with distant people she thought she had lost contact with.

And it wasn’t long before Rose was using her new found internet knowledge to book a cheap flight to Canada to visit her long-lost in-laws. Just before she left, she searched Facebook to find the cousin, also living in Canada, who had been her best friend in her younger days. This search proved fruitless however, but the cameras followed her as she flew into Toronto and was greeted by her brother-in-law and his wife. It was great to see Rose Skyping her grandchildren from Toronto and holding up her iPad so they could see the unusual buses passing by. As Rose sat in a cafe telling the cameras about how wonderful her trip was, she was surprised by her cousin, not seen for 25 years, appearing at her side. Cue kisses, hugs, and many tears.

As she scrolled through her pictures of Toronto on her iPad to show her grandchildren, Rose summed up her experience of working with Roman, “he’s told me not to think I am old and past it any more”. To me, this is one of the most important points about digital inclusion. Far too many pigeonhole older people as beyond learning about new technologies, and far too many older people do it to themselves. It takes a slightly open mind to start the process, and the internet generally does the job itself of opening people’s minds further once they have let it into their lives.

I am so pleased that this series has continued its high standard of showing the world the methods that work where digital inclusion is concerned. If you’d like to work with me on spreading this kind of practice, please get in touch.

OAP Internet Virgins – Really Useful Reality TV

A scene from the first episode of OAP Internet Virgins

In the era of “Benefits Street”, “How to Get a Council House” and other poverty porn TV it is tempting to think that the media has got it in for everyone with any kind of disadvantage. At times the TV screens and the newspaper pages can appear to resemble the school bully continuing their work by other means.

But tonight I watched something that I would truly describe as the antidote to all that. When I saw the concept of “OAP Internet Virgins” I must admit to being a little fearful that this was going to be another example of TV kicking people while they are down. Nothing could have been further from the truth. The idea of the programme is that young people who have gained some kind of internet-based fame are charged with helping an older person take their first steps online.

In episode one, Vlogging twins, 23 year-old Niki and Sammy Albon were helping 84 year-old George. George has recently had to take on all the domestic duties as his wife of 64 years has cancer and Alzheimer’s. Niki and Sammy were quite worried about the prospect of taking on George as a challenge, but, as far as we could tell from the editing, once George was dissuaded away from struggling with his slow Windows PC and given an iPad he seemed soon to become enthusiastic about exploring the online world.

We watched as George was shown how to search iTunes for his favourite music, and saw his eyes light up as he realised that even Perry Como has a home on the internet. George’s interest progressed as he shared a meat and potato pie with the twins, made by his own hands from an online recipe, and nearly as good as the pies formerly made for him by his wife which he thought he would never taste again.

And George progressed from Perry Como, via Nat King Cole, and Meat and Potato Pies to online shopping, and he greeted the supermarket delivery man with glee as his first online shop arrived. The great thing about his ability to shop was that it meant he didn’t have to take up most of the precious 6 hours a week when a carer came in to look after his wife going to the shops. And this meant that he could go back to his former love of performing in a singing group. I must admit that a tear came to my eye as he dedicated the last number of his performance, “We’ll Meet Again”, to the twins, and then the credits rolled, beginning with a dedication to George’s now late wife.

This was heart-warming TV, well done, telling a story in a great way. And it demonstrated what I have been saying and putting into practice for years, that the way to get people online is to approach it through their interests, their entertainment likes, and their immediate needs. Here’s more on my ideas and approach.

I am glad that this message is getting a wider audience. If I can help any organisation put these ideas into practice, please get in touch.