Sanctuary Group is one of many housing providers seeking to bridge the digital divide. We are rolling out wi-fi to our care homes across the country; by December 2015, over 50 will have had wi-fi installed, with the small number of remaining homes expected to have it by March 2016.
We are also supporting residents to get online and develop skills in this digitally-driven world by exploring the use of iPads and apps as a stimulating communications tool and as a platform for creative expression.
With the help of Salmagundi Films, residents and staff at Sanctuary’s Orchard House care home in Cambridgeshire have been involved in interactive iPad sessions, with residents from Sanctuary’s Caton House residential and nursing home in Milton Keynes due to take part in early 2016.
Beyond news, entertainment and games, tablets provide the potential for exploration. The aim of these sessions is for residents to explore the creative potential of iPads, learn new skills and develop talents. While these could be undiscovered talents, the project also encourages residents to reconnect with previous hobbies, interests and memories, many of which can be explored through the apps.
Aided by the latest technology, Salmagundi uses personalised activities in the sessions based on each resident’s interests. A selection of creative apps are used, including art and painting, motion animation and time-lapse videos, a book creator and a virtual piano.
Residents can also create their own life story on the Book Creator app, using photographs from the internet and their own memories to produce a virtual book of their life history. It can then be used by staff to learn and understand more about the individual and their experiences and could also be used by residents to reminisce with family and friends.
As well as offering a creative platform for the residents to use, and keen to highlight the benefits of the digital age, Salmagundi also demonstrated how the tablets could be used as a tool for engagement.
Social inclusion is not just relevant to communication but can also widen social networks. Tablets and apps have been designed to connect people, reduce isolation and simply make them feel part of society again.
With the help of the iPads, residents can do online shopping, reminisce about the past through photographs and news websites, take photographs of family and friends and watch catch-up TV.
Orchard House has already set up a Skype account so residents can speak to family and friends, and a Spotify account so they can listen to their favourite music.
Salmagundi’s work at Orchard House was part of a wider national arts programme called Shine!, which aims to shine a light on the individuals living in Sanctuary Care homes, encouraging their participation in arts-based sessions.
It’s important that despite technology being perceived as the domain of the young, our residents are encouraged to realise they’re never too old to learn. Computers and tablets can give older people access to a whole new world.
This digital world is a fantastic tool to introduce them to creative ways to express themselves, aid reminiscence activities and encourage interaction.
Stephen Rees is director of care operations for Sanctuary Group.