Using Technology to reconnect older people with their communities

These are some more thoughts on using technology to benefit older people based on my Connected Christmas experience.

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I’ve been struck by meeting a number of older people who are actually quite fit and healthy, but who seem to have slipped into a way of behaviour that is almost “expected” of them by society. Like the gentleman I met in Urmston who told me that his confidence has gone, and that means he rarely goes out or socialises in the lounge of the sheltered accommodation complex where he lives. I firmly believe that we can use new technologies to re-engage people like this with their communities, and to allow those who are not so mobile to have some degree of contact with what goes on around them. Instead of people sitting at home, or in a care home, a day centre, or sheltered accommodation lounge, depressing themselves by absorbing the latest bit of back-biting or family-feuding from the TV soap operas, why not engage with something local which has the potential to contribute positively to their lives?

I think these are compelling reasons for increased efforts to to get local community organisations to use social media, live video streaming, podcasting and other methods to cover local events. At Urmston, the video pub crawl proved particularly engaging, suggesting that even simple video tours of the neighbourhood could help to re-acquaint people with their surroundings and increase their sense of engagement with their communities and their former lives. And what could be achieve using gadgets such as Oculus Rift to immerse people in the lives of communities they formerly had strong ties with?

As I often argue, I think we can use technology to “re-humanise” society, rather than going along with the dystopian predictions of everyone forgetting the personal connections while they stare at screens. This is something I think we need to work on, urgently.

 

Cricket and Social Media

New Year, New Project.

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I am very pleased to announce that I will be working with the England & Wales Cricket Board (ECB) over the next couple of months to assist grassroots cricketers to make better use of social media to celebrate what they do, and, crucially, to reach out to what the ECB defines as “occasional” and “cameo” players (i.e. those with varying degrees of commitment to playing the game regularly), with a view to engaging them more fully in the activities of their clubs and leagues.

Participation in cricket is declining, and the key aim of this work is to try to address that by encouraging club cricketers to use social media in imaginative ways to raise the profile of the benefits of playing the game on a regular basis.

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This is a pilot initiative, and during January and February, I will be running a programme of 3 evening workshops for club cricketers in each of the Bradford and Huddersfield areas. If this goes well, then there is a strong possibility of extending it into other areas. And the first session in each of the workshop programmes will be an informal discussion over a curry, an idea that I have unashamedly pinched from the Social Care Curry movement.

I am very excited about this, and also grateful to Twitter-friend Graham Hyde for mentioning my name to the ECB. I’ve been a cricket-nut since a small child and I am really happy to be able to combine my loves of cricket and social media. Watch this space for reports of progress.

Stand up for positive uses of the internet

This morning’s edition of the Today programme on BBC Radio 4 was guest-edited by the musician, Tracey Thorn. There were two sections of the programme which were about how the internet can help vulnerable teenagers find support online. There were some great, inspiring stories, but, both of the items were topped and tailed by negative comments from the programme presenters suggesting that this kind of thing is a rarity on the internet, amongst a sea of trolls and threats.

We can’t allow the mainstream media to go unchallenged when it pedals this line, partly out of self-interest as the web eats away at its audiences. There are millions of positive interactions every day online, many of which go ignored by TV, Radio and Newspapers. Just look at all the offers of free Christmas Dinners for those who would otherwise spend Christmas alone, as only one example. The web is a powerful force for social good, and the media cannot be allowed to get away with suggesting otherwise.