Supporting older people to get online

Funding for Stonewater’s digital initiative will support seven retirement living schemes.

In 2019, 4 million adults were reported to have never used the internet, with more than half of those adults aged 75 years and over. To close the gap between the generations and increase internet usage among older adults, social housing provider Stonewater is supporting 270 of its existing residents as part of a digital inclusion programme.

A Stonewater colleague helping a customer on a laptop

The organisation has been awarded grant funding from the Longleigh Foundation to purchase digital equipment including laptops, for a project that is running across seven of its retirement living schemes in the South.

The funding will allow Stonewater to expand its digital inclusion project – originally launched in May 2017 – to support more residents in obtaining skills and building their confidence to use the internet, through its Digi sessions. These sessions will be led by three digital champions and Stonewater’s Retirement Living Senior Digital Ambassador, Linda Rayfield.

Colleagues running the Digi sessions show the residents taking part how they can use the internet to manage their finances, connect with friends and family, as well as accessing health information and manage their Stonewater tenancy by taking advantage of online self-service options to do things like pay their rent or to report any maintenance issues.

Previously, Stonewater shared a mobile digital kit with other retirement living schemes in the region, which is what prompted the not-for-profit organisation to apply for funding for its own equipment. The schemes benefiting from the project include Old Mill Court, Alfred Davey Court, New Surrey Court, Farnol House, Harmsworth Court and Highland Lodge.

The aim of the project is to increase the social activity and inclusion of Stonewater’s customers, no matter their age. To achieve this, residents are also given the opportunity to access learning platforms such as Stonewater's Learn my way and access to a wide range of interest and hobby groups.

As part of the funding, Stonewater has also provided each scheme with a smart TV streaming healthy eating and exercise advice, as well as using the TVs to offer community movie and matinee screening.

Linda Rayfield, Retirement Living Senior Digital Ambassador and Team Leader South at Stonewater, said: “This funding from the Longleigh Foundation has been an amazing boost to widen the digital services we can offer to our customers across seven of our retirement living schemes. By supporting our residents to get online, we can help them stay informed and feel included, whilst also empowering them to have the confidence to try something completely unfamiliar to them.

“We believe our approach to this initiative has been successful among engaging this generation because we create a safe and enjoyable space for our customers, making our customers feel comfortable to learn at a pace that suits them.”

Andy Peers, Chief Executive at the Longleigh Foundation, said: “There have been tremendous advances in technology, with much of this now being a part of our everyday lives. From filling in forms to speaking to our families and friends and to using smart speakers in our homes, ensuring that as many people as possible feel confident in using technology is so important.

“We’re delighted to be able to provide funding to enable Stonewater to improve and broaden the digital services available to residents in their retirement living schemes. As a result of our funding, we hope that residents will spend more time together, learning about and enjoying the facilities available, as well as helping them remain connected to families and friends, wherever in the world they may be.”