This week is Get Online Week - the UK’s largest digital inclusion campaign - and we’re celebrating the positive impact that digital can have for older people through a new report launched today.
The evaluation was completed by Good Things Foundation as part of the Widening Digital Participation programme, supported by the NHS. Good Things Foundation is also publishing a toolkit of resources to help organisations to support older patients to benefit from digital.
Although the generation gap in internet use is narrowing, with many older people going online to get more out of later life, there is still a huge digital divide. 55% of over 65s lack at least one essential digital skill1, and 53% of over 65s have none of the foundational digital skills they need2.
For older people experiencing life transitions, and with care and support needs, being able to go online can be especially valuable. Digital tools, such as the NHS App, can support older
people to manage repeat prescriptions, book and cancel appointments and view their
There are a number of practical resources available to help older and disabled people to get online. However, there is currently no national provision focused on older people’s digital inclusion to ensure they can benefit from online health and care services.
As part of their digital inclusion work with the NHS, Good Things Foundation worked with two Pathfinders - in Thanet and Sunderland - to test how they could support older people with care and support needs.
The two projects employed different approaches to supporting older people. In Sunderland, Age UK provided free digital skills classes to older people in a range of deprived locations across the borough, developing a partnership with the local council to identify skills needs amongst older, vulnerable people. And in Thanet, Orbit Housing designed a community-based digital skills scheme, to build the skills of disabled older people living in supported accommodation. They built a thriving peer support network which reached almost 50% of residents.
One person who has benefited from digital skills support is Roy, in Thanet. Roy says: I’m learning to do beneficial things for myself. I’ve found two health apps - one is a patient access app which I’ve joined, which means I can manage my medication which I need every month, and manage my appointments online. I have an app that tells me how many people are in the waiting room of each hospital in the area. I used it on Boxing Day, as I needed to go to A&E. There was one hospital with 34 people waiting and another hospital with only 1. So I went there and went straight through to see the doctor.”
Good Things Foundation is making a number of key recommendations, to support the digital upskilling of older patients:
- Health and care organisations need to embed digital inclusion in any needs assessment for older people they are working with, to provide a genuinely holistic offer, ensuring they can refer on to relevant support in the community
- Integrated Care Systems and Sustainability and Transformation Partnerships need to understand and ensure digital inclusion runs throughout their five year strategic plans to give weight to digital inclusion, developing referral partnerships, and upskilling staff to talk about digital with patients.
- Delivery organisations should consider the social aspect of learning digital skills in groups, which can help to reduce isolation for older people. They should also consider appointing peer mentors as digital champions, to give personalised and relevant support.
- NHSX and CCGs have a key role to pay in broadening awareness of digital, particularly through promotion of the new NHS app.
- Councils and housing associations should invest in digital inclusion services for older people, by investing in Wifi, developing better, more user focused services, and training up frontline staff.
Resources from Good Things Foundation also published today include a guide for working with elderly and isolated people and for working with people in assisted living settings.
Helen Milner, Chief Executive of Good Things Foundation said: “We’re delighted to be publishing these findings today, and hope the recommendations we have developed mean organisation working across the health and care sectors, and who are supporting older people, can do more with digital. Digital has the potential to have a huge impact on the lives of older people - helping them to be less isolated, to better manage their health, and to do more of the things they love. Through our Pathfinder projects, we’ve seen first hand the huge impact digital can have, and we need to ensure everyone is supported to develop both the skills and motivation to make the most of it.”
Polly Bishop, Director of Digital Experience at NHSX said: "Older people can benefit hugely from online health and care services such as the NHS App which can be used to book and cancel appointments and manage repeat prescriptions. This is why NHSX is working hard with partners including Good Things Foundation to develop activities to improve digital inclusion and awareness among older generations
"Resources will help those across the system who understand the importance of digital inclusion, but do not have the knowledge or tools to understand how to find, engage with and support digitally excluded people."
Nicola Gill, Widening Digital Participation Programme Director at NHS Digital said: “Digital health technology can really help to reduce isolation and connect older people to the people, information and services they need to improve their mental and physical health. We have been learning lots about the barriers and challenges for older people with getting online and the things we can do to support them.
“We are delighted to be sharing what we have learned so that NHS, social care and third sector organisations across the country can benefit from this work and are able to help older people in their area improve their quality of life through the choice, convenience and opportunity that technology offers.”
Find out more at https://digital-health-lab.org/older-people.
For more information, please contact Anna Osbourne on firstname.lastname@example.org or 07872 992 748.
Notes to editors
- NHS Digital’s Widening Digital Participation programme (WDP) aims to help thousands of people across the UK to boost their digital health skills, as one in 10 people in England lack the confidence and skills to fully benefit from digital, and in turn from the improvements to their health. The programme is focusing on those who are socially excluded and so are most likely to suffer from health inequalities.
- The pathfinders are partnerships between local organisations including Clinical Commissioning Groups, local authorities and community groups in areas of high deprivation and digital exclusion. The evidence and insights gathered through these pilot projects have been developed into practical ‘How to Guides’ that can be shared with digital teams in the NHS and across Government to ensure all digital health services and tools are inclusive and accessible to everyone – particularly the most excluded.
- Good Things Foundation is a social change charity, helping people to improve their lives through digital. Through thousands of Online Centres in communities across the UK, the charity helps people gain the support and skills they need to change their lives, and believes that everyone in the UK should have the confidence, skills, support and access to use digital technology, participate in society and benefit from the digital world.
- As part of the Widening Digital Participation programme, since 2013 Good Things Foundation has been working with the NHS and other partners to bring digital health inclusion to those people who are most excluded and for whom digital can have the biggest benefit.
- Get Online Week is the country’s biggest campaign that helps people to improve their digital skills. Now in its twelfth year, Get Online Week 2019 aims to help everyone take their next step to being more confident online - whatever their level of skill - by trying just one new thing online. Find out more at www.getonlineweek.com.