University students urge elderly residents to use Facebook to prevent isolation
AN INITIATIVE encouraging elderly people to use social media so they can feel more involved in their community has been launched by the University of Chichester.
The project was developed by students to help prevent isolation among older residents in West Sussex through the use of new technologies. Members of the Bognor Regis Hotham Park Heritage Trust were invited to join a pilot study, which taught basic smartphone and tablet use as well as how to take photos and use Facebook.
Postgraduate student Nicholas Jenner, of the MSc degree in Digital Marketing at the University’s Business School, developed the initiative as part of his dissertation. He said: “The response from everyone has been extremely positive.
“When we started the sessions, I asked the group to turn on a phone, take a photo, and then send it as an attachment in an email – and only two were able to do it. It’s taken just three classes for those involved feel much more confident on their phones and safer online.”
The pilot sessions, attended by 15 Trust members, were hosted in the University’s new Tech Park, located in Bognor Regis. The development was opened last month and provides specialist courses in science, technology, and engineering.
Hotham Park Heritage Trust member Rosemary Warren said she hoped to learn how to use Facebook to communicate more often with her family.
She added: “There is a need for classes like this, and the students have been extremely patient and helpful. It’s particularly useful for the Trust as we want to build our own Facebook page to publicise our events and get more involvement from people in the community.”
According to charity Campaign to End Loneliness, more than half – 51 per cent – of people aged 75 and older live alone and two-fifths of older people claim that the television is the main source of company.
The pilot series saw the students partner with members of the Heritage Trust for one-to-one tuition sessions about how to use new phone and tablet technology. The initiative was overseen by senior lecturer Jennie White, a marketing specialist at the University’s Business School.
She said: “A number of charities in the older-age demographic are looking at skilling up older generations to prevent a polarisation of those that can use technology and those that cannot. We now hope to roll the initiative out to a wider group to help with loneliness and counter some of the polarisation of our community.”