Yesterday I ran another Digital Tea Party, this time with Leeds and Yorkshire Housing Association at their West Thorpe Sheltered Accommodation site in Whitby.
This was a Digital Tea Party with a difference, as we hadn’t had the opportunity to test the connectivity at the venue before the event. When I arrived I discovered that, not only did the in-house wifi not extend to the residents’ lounge, but there was little or no 3G or 4G connectivity available either. Eventually, I managed to get online via Emily Fulda‘s phone, but I could only connect my laptop, and we couldn’t get any of the other devices we had online. That meant the event resembled a lecture more than it did a party.
Nevertheless, it turned out to work quite well. While setting up, I put the video below on the screen, and it immediately generated a discussion, centred on the steam-powered bus it featured, which apparently has been banned from the streets due to a number of issues around its operation.
Discussion in the group moved on to where people came from. 4 of the residents had originated in Leeds so I was able to show a video that had been very popular at the Digital Tea Parties in Leeds
And then we discovered a real gem. One of the residents had himself been videoed reading his poems, so we were able to find those on Youtube and show them to the gathering
This was a particularly important breakthrough. I have found that in these circumstances it is important to break down the “technology is for for young people” argument. This is often achieved by finding one or two enthusiasts in the group, and getting them to lead the way and act as champions with the rest. Here, we were able to show videos of one of the residents who was himself a digital trailblazer. This sparked curiosity even in some members who had been disengaged up till this point. David talked about how he chats to his brother in Australia using Facetime. Unfortunately, it was not possible to arrange a demo of this, in part due to the poor connectivity we were experiencing, and, perhaps, mainly due to the fact that his brother would have been soundly asleep at the time.
So the discussion ranged from keeping in touch with relatives, via online shopping, to being able to listen online to local radio stations from back home. And then we were on to musical tastes. A couple of classical music videos were run for the benefit of residents, and then a member of the group mentioned he was into AC/DC. Although a rendition of the great Australian band’s “Thunderstruck” did not go down that well with most in the room, there was much more interest when I asked if anyone had seen the Bad Piper’s version below.
I’ve come across too many events with older people where it has been assumed their musical tastes are rooted in the 1930s. Most people’s musical tastes are forged in their teenage years. If you were a teenager in the 1930s you will be well into your 90s now. Most of the residents at our event were in their 70s and would have been teenagers in the 1950s and 60s. Thus AC/DC is a much more likely choice than is Vera Lynn.
The connectivity issues meant that we were unable to do as much as I wanted, and there was little opportunity for any hands on work with gadgets. But, I still think the event worked. There was lively discussion about the role of technology in member’s lives, with quite a few myths dispelled, and residents challenging each other to give things a try. I think it is very important to get these kinds of issues sorted, rather than forcing people to use technology at their first session if they are reluctant. That kind of approach can turn them off forever. I always say that we have to “normalise” the use of technology in people’s lives. And the first step can often be just to get them talking about it, and not treating it as an alien concept.
After the event, myself and the team from LYHA, Emily, Dan Marshall, and Rio Overton, decided to take a brief advantage of the glorious April weather by heading down to the beach. We passed the huge queues for the numerous Whitby Fish & Chip shops, along the harbourside and onto the beach. And, of course, because Rio was named after the song by Duran Duran, it was compulsory for her to dance in the sand
As I’ve mentioned before, I am determined to do more of these kinds of events, with a view to making sure, by Christmas 2015, that we have comprehensive mechanisms in place to ensure everybody who needs to can access technology to break down their loneliness and isolation. Please get in touch if you’d like to work with me on events like this and more.