What was the issue you were addressing or working on?
The issue which had been evidenced through analysis of referrals was that in the Wishaw / Shotts area there were significant numbers of older people who were experiencing some degree of isolation and were seeking support to connect to social activity in their communities. It was recognised that the experience of loneliness and isolation, if not addressed, carried risk of precipitating detriment to medium to longer term health and wellbeing. The issue encompassed the need to work with older people to ascertain directly what would for them constitute meaningful social activity.
What you did?
The North Lanarkshire Locality Link model facilitates participation by older people in the life of their communities. Replacing traditional day centre models, this approach addresses loneliness and isolation, helps older people achieve personal outcomes through participation in their chosen social networks, whilst adding value through short breaks for carers. This case study considers outcomes achieved through use of Change Fund to expand investment in the model, enabling older people to identify and connect to opportunities for learning and for social interaction which were previously not available to them.
An additional post of Locality Link Officer [LLO] was appointed in the Wishaw Shotts area. The LLO met with groups of older adults to explore what they considered to be the currently unavailable opportunities, the absence of which posed obstacles to their participation. This work identified three quite distinct areas of concern:
- Access to computer skills / technology
- Social interaction in a women only, or men only group
- An arts and crafts group.
These three areas have ongoing projects with high levels of participation. This case study relates to ‘access to computer skills and technology’ as a means of illustrating how the model works.
Computer skills / technology
People described earlier experiences of dropping out of computer classes where they ‘felt embarrassed, out of their dept and silly’ as they perceived these groups to be more targeted for younger people with a basic knowledge of computers. This opened up a discussion relating to why older adults wished to learn about computers and the internet in general. It became apparent that these older adults felt “alienated” and “excluded” and “left out”. They wanted to know about emails, how to get onto the internet, how you can find information and what kind of things you could do with a computer. One lady said “wouldn’t it be great if we had classes for our own age, where we didn’t feel silly and old”.
Older adults agreed that they would feel comfortable being part of a group working on computers if they were in a location where other kinds of activities for older people are already taking place. It was agreed that the communal areas of sheltered housing complexes would be ideal. The small budget which the LLO controlled was used to buy computers and mobile broadband. Voluntary Action North Lanarkshire identified 19 potential volunteers interested in working with older adults and who had IT-computer skills. The Locality Link Officer drew upon generic groupwork skills, the capabilities of the volunteers, and the information gained through user consultation to develop an informal flexible eight week basic computer skills course. Some participants need support while accessing the groups and this is provided by the Locality Support Worker. Two groups were offered with at time of writing, approximately 22 older adults, attending the groups on a weekly basis. A further 9 older people have purchased their own laptops and home broadband packages. Currently both these groups are working on producing their first news letter using their newly developed computer skills; this news letter contains their individual thoughts and views about the computer group they attend and what they have learned.
What were the outcomes - benefits or otherwise?
The case study illustrates good process outcomes – success was built upon asking older people first what learning and social interaction activities they wanted to see developed. For at least some of the participants, those who are now using their own laptops in their own homes, their learning and their opportunity for social interaction has been placed on a sustainable basis, positive change outcomes. The involvement of the volunteers has been a critical success factor, and has expanded the opportunities for social interaction. While describing a specific development, the case study sets out a methodology which has generic applicability.
The combined impact of the initiative, recruiting an extra 12 locality support workers and an additional locality link officer, to increase community capacity through day opportunities included:
- the new locality link officer for Shotts dealing with 112 referrals over the year 12/13
- the additional locality support workers enabling the development of 39 new groups across all our localities
- an extra 260 people attending community groups during 12/13
- Benefit to carers through an average of 110 hours short breaks per week.
Contacts - to find out more
Fiona Taylor, Service Manager Integration, TaylorF@northlan.gov.uk 01698 332822