Digital Companions scheme to help millions of Welsh seniors access essential online services
A new volunteering initiative has been launched today which aims to help older people who are living independently in their own homes, to get online and access vital digital services.
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The Digital Companions scheme, delivered by Digital Communities Wales, aims to harness the good will and skills of people who are happy using the internet, and encourage them to buddy up with someone who isn’t. The new initiative will work alongside non statutory care services and organisations which help elderly people who are living independently – befrienders, carers, community transport, meals-on-wheels etc.
According to the latest National Survey for Wales (2017/18), senior citizens in Wales make up the largest segment of people who are not online. 75% of digitally excluded people are aged over 75, with only half of single pensioner households (51%) having access to the internet.
According to Marc Davies, Project Manager for Digital Communities Wales, we are in real danger of locking out millions of senior citizens from receiving essential services if we don’t start to take a collective responsibility for helping others get online. He said:
“As the rapid digital transformation of services continues across Wales, there is a risk that those who could most benefit from the digital health revolution, are those that are left behind.”
“The Digital Companions model takes a new approach to tackling digital exclusion. We’re reaching out to the people on the street – friends, family members, neighbours, or existing befrienders, to encourage them to become that person’s Digital Companion. It is a one-to-one approach – one Companion working with someone they already know – which will take place over a period of many months.”
“This will not be your traditional approach of, this is a mouse, this a key board ect. etc. It needs to be a more engaging experience, based on the indiviual’s needs, background and interests. Everyone has a hook, and we will be encouraging our Companions to find the hook that opens up the web to the person they are supporting, making the experience fun and relevant.”
Initally the Digital Companions initiative will run in partnership with Hywel Dda Health Board and Aneurin Bevan University Health Board. This is a Bevan Exemplar project, supported by the Bevan Commission, Wales’ premier think tank for health and care. Having piloted the approach in these areas, the intention is to roll it out nationwide across Wales.
Digital Communities Wales is a Welsh Government project helping people to access and use the internet, which is delivered by the Wales Co-operative Centre. Launched in April 2015, the project provides digital inclusion training and support to organisations working with older people, people with disabilities, unemployed people or vulnerable families so they can help their clients, tenants, customers or service users to get online.