As part of an effort to reduce social isolation and loneliness, a digital inclusion programme is helping keep older people in Leeds connected during the coronavirus lockdown.

The 100% Digital Leeds team, jointly funded by NHS Leeds Clinical Commissioning Group and Leeds City Council, are working to ensure that everyone in the city has everything they need to carry out essential tasks and stay connected in an increasingly digital world.

The team takes a ‘furthest first’ approach to digital inclusion and works closely with Leeds’s Third Sector (community and voluntary groups) to reach those most excluded.  Since the coronavirus pandemic took hold, the focus of the 100% Digital Leeds team has been to improve the digital capacity and capability of these organisations to continue to support the most vulnerable people in the city.

One such example has seen a Neighbourhood Network Scheme go online to keep its weekly get-togethers going. Cross Gates Good Neighbours Scheme, which supports older people to live independently, has been working with 100% Digital Leeds to deliver weekly coffee mornings online using Zoom.

• Top row: Jim Daley ,Samantha Haggart, Ernest Walker, Barbara and Michael Lloyd, Christine Bates,
• Second row: David Smith, Melvin Lamb, Danny Buckley, Jackie Lawrence, Brian Sugden,
• Third row: Shirley Vardy, Lind and Gerry Pitts, Marie Broadhead , Sandra Davis, Marion Smith,
• Fourth row: Stephen Bostridge, Christine Holdstock, Damian & Diane Marsden, Catherine Heselwood.

Rachel Benn, Digital Inclusion Coordinator for 100% Digital Leeds, said: “Thanks to our training and support, Digital Champions now support their peers to engage in these virtual sessions. The organisation has developed a programme of Zoom sessions, offering a different session every day, and has taken an important role in sharing their learning with other organisations. Their weekly coffee mornings include a Wednesday show and tell session and a Friday quiz. This has proven to be a vital way for people to stay connected with neighbours and friends while maintaining social distancing.”

Marie, 79 commented: “These virtual coffee mornings give me a reason to get up in a morning, a reason to put my lipstick on! It’s very lonely so it’s really nice to be able to see others, it brightens my days!”

Dr George Winder, GP at Oakwood Lane Medical Practice and Clinical Lead for New Models of Care for NHS Leeds CCG, commented: “While many of us will be worried about the direct health impacts of coronavirus, it’s easy to forget that the lockdown and social distancing measures will lead to social isolation and loneliness. 100% Digital Leeds helps to tackle this, showing that staying connected is not hard as you might think and can be quite fun too!

“As a GP I’ve seen first-hand how 100% Digital Leeds has helped our GP practice even before the coronavirus pandemic. Accessing the digital world helps people manage their money, deal with housing issues, enjoy leisure and stay connected. This all contributes to positive health and mental wellbeing for everyone.”

To find out more about 100% Digital Leeds visit www.digitalinclusionleeds.com

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