A group of social housing residents aged between 74 and 88 years from Affinity Sutton, one of the largest housing providers in England, were recently helped by Digital Unite to take their first steps to getting online and for some it had a life-changing effect.

As part of a rebrand at their Basingstoke sheltered housing scheme and their ongoing commitment to help their community to get online, Affinity Sutton enlisted Digital Unite to help some of their residents with using and enjoying the newly installed computers in the communal hubs.

With extensive experience in helping social housing providers with delivering digital inclusion programmes, most recently via the national Get Digital initiative, Digital Unite was pleased to take on the challenge.

Eight residents at one of Affinity Sutton’s sheltered scheme in Basingstoke took part in a series of six computer and internet sessions led by Digital Unite tutor, Caron Fuller. The sessions guided them through some of the basic skills such as how to use a computer keyboard and mouse, how to search for family history, how to set up an email account and how to look up Affinity Sutton information online. The residents also used Digital Unite’s free online guides to help them remember what they had learnt and to support them with developing new skills.

The training made the group realise the positive aspects about computers and the internet and dispel some myths that had been a previous barrier to learning. Following the training all of the residents agreed that using the internet was an easy way to find out information, and many came to understand how it was safe, how it made life a little easier and how it enabled them to better keep in touch with friends and family.

One resident, Jane, 76 years, found the computer sessions had a particularly profound effect on her. With her new-found digital skills Jane was able to research her family history on an ancestry website and found out about her parents’ marriage, answering a long-held question about her background after being given away at birth. Jane said: It has closed a chapter in my life and answered the big question about the past. I have a piece of my heart back”.

Caron Fuller, the Digital Unite tutor said: “All of the learners were very enthusiastic about the opportunity to learn about computers and the internet, reflected in the fact that all eight turned up week after week without fail. They all seemed to enjoy it and got a lot from the learning, particularly with the subject of ancestry which had a huge impact. They are certainly not scared of computers now they know what they can do.”

Karen Dickson, Live Smart Manager at Affinity Sutton said: “We are delighted at the results of this training activity. At Affinity Sutton we recognise that it’s not just a case of installing new computer equipment and hoping people will use it, residents need support, encouragement and practical help to get started on their digital journey. The sessions proved that there is a real appetite among our residents to learn about modern technology if some teaching is made available to them and we look forward to running similar initiatives in the future.”

Since the training Karen has completed our Quick Start course, Helping Beginners Get (and Stay) Online alongside a young Affinity Sutton volunteer so that they are fully equipped to help all of the residents to keep on using the new equipment to explore the wonders of the worldwide web.

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