An update from Cross Gates and District Good Neighbours Scheme CIO, working in partnership with 100% Digital Leeds creating better Health outcomes through Digital Inclusion
After the success of our Digital Health Hub launch in September 2019 working in partnership with 100% Digital Leeds we were successful in securing funding from Good Things Foundation to continue our Digital Health Hub offer which has been a lifeline and vital to so many of our members especially within this current time.
A lot has changed due to Covid-19 since we started our Digital Health Hub and the impact within our centre and for our members has been huge. We have adapted all of our services to support our members remotely and increased the digital support we provide to ensure members stay connected and mentally well whilst in isolation.
We have also changed the way we are delivering our digital sessions as part of the Health Hub taking into account the effect of the pandemic and lockdown restrictions, we have increased our support calls and handed equipment over on doorsteps just to ensure members are able to still develop their digital skills and aren’t excluded.
Nearly all of our members have reported a decrease in health and fitness due to long periods of shielding and isolation and loneliness. Their wellbeing is a huge concern for us as lack of mobility and fitness means that they are doing less, are more prone to falls and a lot are reporting that they just feel older this year in their bodies.
Developing our virtual offer of activities and digital support
We are providing a full programme of virtual sessions now for our members to boost mental wellbeing and keep members stimulated and connected. Bingo, quizzes, virtual coffee mornings and more! We developed the first Virtual Coffee Morning in Leeds back in March and have continued to develop more virtual activities with a different selection every week!
We provide support for them to order their prescriptions online, access GP appointments digitally and have video consultations for their long-term conditions. There are still lots of our members not online and we’re continuing to support them to overcome barriers such as confidence, fear and not having a device.
We have a lending scheme with tablets which we lend out with data on so members can get online and we motivate and encourage members which boosts their confidence and skills.
Keeping Well at Home Course
Focusing on Health and Wellbeing we have just started delivering a virtual programme to address the issues of fitness, boredom, motivation and mental health. We put together the Keeping Healthy at Home Course which is a 4-week course for up to 10 members run via Zoom and we focus on a different theme each week. Members are encouraged to do activities in between the sessions and report back on their progress each week. This is in partnership with Active Leeds using their Keeping Well at Home resources for older people.
Martin Lee from Active Leeds supports us with their Keeping Healthy at Home Booklets and videos demonstrating their Strength and Balance exercises. Each member received a resource pack before the course started which also included information and leaflets on scam prevention and staying safe.
The first round of the course has been such a success and made a massive difference to all the attendees seeing an increase in their mental wellbeing and mobility. It became a support group for members to express how lockdown is making them feel and give tips and tools for staying active and happy in isolation.
Here are some of the experiences of our members throughout the Keeping Well at Home course:
Dot, one of our members researched exercises on YouTube and found The Green Goddess exercise videos which she enjoyed doing as well as following the chair exercises. Harrold is We then focused on hobbies and interests and how learning can improve happiness and mental health. Dot enjoys family history and Irene is just starting hers. We paired Dot and Irene up and now Dot is sharing how she did it online with Irene and the website’s she used.
Susan wanted to learn the Ukulele and David who plays is going to give her Ukulele Zoom lessons. She is nervous and excited about learning something new. David is looking forward to sharing his passion and knowledge of playing the Ukulele with someone else. He really misses his Ukulele weekly group and the meet ups which he used to go to. One of our members has donated a Ukulele for Sue to use in her lessons!
Irene is struggling with not going out she used to come into the centre 5 days a week and misses the social side. Hopefully starting her family tree with Dot will give her something new to focus on, and she is becoming more confident with being online!
Frank wanted to learn how to do Maths and would like to access Open University one day so we sent him links to free Maths courses to get him started. He is looking forward to learning more, he is developing his digital skills and said this is helping him and giving him a reason to get up in a morning.
The Members are all using Learn My Way to complete courses on how to access NHS services online and most didn’t realise how much information was on the NHS website and will continue to use it in future. Where face to face services are more restricted, this is improving their self-management and making it easier for them to have appointments and stay well in lockdown, using symptom checking and more.
“I had used the NHS website before but only to find out about some ailments, symptoms and treatment. I had no idea there where so many other areas covered, now I can have video appointments with my GP practice and order my medication online it’s great!”
Health and Wellbeing sessions
We then explored nutrition and recipes, members expressed:
“Cooking for one isn’t the same”
“I only eat ready meals since my husband died”
“I am not eating as well as I did due to lockdown snacking “
Some cook for something to do and to have a purpose to the day instead of sitting all day, others find it hard to stand and cook long recipes.
We discussed meal planning and batch cooking, we explored the many recipes online and all the free apps that will help them find tasty meals to make that are simple and easy. It was really successful and members felt afterwards so much more motivated to ensure they were eating well and enjoying to make meals.
“The Keeping Well at Home virtual course has focused my mind in my overall health and I have started adding more fruit into my daily diet and begun the balance exercises online. My ‘daily’ walks have been a bit intermittent but I am now much more committed.”
The final session we themed around Safety and falls prevention. The exercises around strength and balance in week 1 were vital to help prevent future falls as well as ensuring the home environment is safe this winter for members. We started with an online group quiz which included questions on smoke detectors and Carbon Monoxide detectors as well as electrical safety.
We then took the group through a home safety checklist to see if they needed to change anything at home to keep them safe. As a result, some needed to fix their outdoor lighting, check smoke alarms and address other outstanding jobs. The resources online really helped them with this and they could share with each other top tips.
Developing further digital skills
The group continue to improve their digital skills using Learn My Way and we check in with them regularly to see how they are progressing with the things they have learnt on the course. Digital has been a lifeline and has made such a difference. The course has brought everyone together on to the zoom call and connected people, given them hope and motivation to keep going. We discussed how hard it is through lockdown but as one of our members said it is about finding joy in new activities, and we continue to provide these to enable our members to stay well.
“I had never made appointments before using system online and have now taken responsibility for ordering my repeat prescriptions on the website and I can now make appointments on the NHS app!”
There will be a light at the end of the tunnel! We’re glad we have virtual bingo, virtual blockbuster games, virtual groups and ways to support our members digitally which is so important at this time for their health and wellbeing. Thanks to 100% Digital Leeds for your continued support.
Leeds Older People’s Forum and 100% Digital Leeds are launching a Digital Inclusion working group for Neighbourhood Networks this month so we will be sharing our learning and resources across the city with other organisations too, all working together to tackle the digital divide and creating positive outcomes for our older members through the pandemic.
For more information or to get in touch: Samantha@crossgatesgns.org.uk