A group of older people have been proving that computers and technology can play a crucial part in bringing people together.
The community based group, known as the Bell Green Silver Surfers, have been helping its members, aged 67 to 87, to become more comfortable making use of digital media while also helping reduce isolation in the community.
The group which caters for people in the Bell Green and Longford areas of the city has 17 members, and a waiting list for new recruits.
The group was set up in 2010, in the Bell Green Community Centre following the closure of a course at the Bell Green Library.
The course responds to individual's needs and over the years the group has managed to secure funding to buy Laptops and other equipment. Recently it has received funding from People's Health Trust which is enabling it to replace some of its older laptops and sustain the group into 2018.
John O’Sullivan, who has been a part of Bell Green Surfers from when it was first set up, said that the project has always responded to people’s needs. The group meet every Thursday morning at Bell Green Community Centre.
He said: “We learn a range of things from e-mail to Facebook; Instagram; Skype and Twitter.
“The course responds to people’s needs and over the years we have managed to secure funding to buy second hand laptops and other digital equipment.
“Newcomers say that the friendliness of the group is really important. They really feel at home.”
Most of the group have wi-fi at home because they say it is a necessity particularly when grandchildren are visiting.
He added: “We can do banking, pay car tax and buy products. Everyone has become far more confident when using digital services.”
Cllr John Mutton, Cabinet Member for Strategic Finance and Resources, said: “The Bell Green Silver surfers have really made a difference. It would be good to replicate this in other parts of the city.
“As a Council we can help groups find ways of accessing local and national funding pots.
“The key for many communities is to ensure that as more people are accessing digital technology we ensure that fast digital broadband is more widely accessible for residents and businesses.”
Anne Drysdale who leads the training said that the Bell Green Silver Surfers could be repeated in other areas of the city.
She said: “It’s a simple idea that has exceeded everyone’s expectation. They are great to work with and have picked up so much.
“At Christmas many of the group received new phones tablets and other gadgets as presents which they are now learning to use.”
The Bell Green Silver Surfers are currently looking for a sponsor to support our work beyond the life of their current funding. For more information contact John on 0247666 7737.
The People's Health Trust is an independent charity addressing health inequalities across Great Britain.It works closely with each of 51 society lotteries and makes grants using money raised by the society lotteries through the Health lottery.