We are pleased to share this Housing LIN guest blog by Dan Rock, TAPPI Tec Project Officer at Platform Housing, which was originally featured as an article with Inside Housing on August 4, 2023.
This morning I hold a drop-in session with residents at Harling Court in Ledbury, one of Platform’s retirement villages. We’ve given digital tablets to 25 residents (most of them aged 75-80) as part of our Technology for our Ageing Population: Panel for Innovation (TAPPI) project. Through this, we want to learn how to better use technology with our older residents.
Eight people come to the communal lounge for a coffee and a chat. I give them reasons to switch on their tablet, which starts with finding out what they are interested in.
An 82-year-old man with an unusual name wants to trace his family history. One resident, 87, is keen to video call his daughter in Massachusetts. A woman in her 70s is frustrated at having to wait ages on the phone to make a GP appointment. I show her how to book online.
Today I visit TAPPI residents in their flats. One woman has agoraphobia, and we talk about technology that might give her reassurance. I explain how a GPS alarm would allow the staff here to see her location when she’s out and about. She thinks it might give her the confidence to go to the shops.
One of our residents says “there’s nothing between my ears”. It’s sad to hear that, but it’s my job to encourage people and build their confidence. I find it humbling that they are willing to get involved at all.
If someone is 83 and they’ve never owned a smartphone or computer, technology can be overwhelming. Others feel that devices are a step backwards – a symbol of their old age and frailty – so we discuss how tech can increase their independence, not lessen it.
I’m not at Harling Court today, so I have meetings. The first is with Platform’s digital transformation officer. We discuss how learnings from TAPPI can be used to support older residents in other retirement villages and community properties.
Platform has already done great work helping jobseekers to use laptops and enabling residents to report repairs online, and we discuss some of the practical techniques I’ve used to help older residents engage with their tablets and do the things they love.
I have an appointment this morning with a resident in his 80s who has been a long-term fundraiser for a local hospice. We spend two hours together setting up an online charity donation page for a fundraising film night he’s organising. He makes lots of notes so he can use this knowledge in the future.
This resident also tells me that he’s writing a book by hand about his travels. I find a desk for him in the conservatory and we connect his tablet to a keyboard so he can type his memoirs.
I meet with another resident whose health has improved and she’s looking for her own home. I show her how to search property websites on her tablet and filter the results. I leave her engrossed on the sofa.
Next, I meet with our TAPPI co-production champions: Rosemary, Wendy, Mike and Muriel. They are all residents at Harling Court who help to steer the project. They are also the people on the ground, keeping excitement levels up around TAPPI. Some residents are more willing to speak to our champions than me, so they feed back any opinions, worries or questions.
Muriel, in particular, is an ideas machine. She suggests that we get a large TV and hearing loop system in the communal lounge for games afternoons and residents’ meetings. She’s a big believer in using tech to bring people together.
It’s admin day. When I’m at Harling Court, people grab me for a chat, but today, I collate all their suggestions and write evaluation reports.
Sometimes on a Friday I meet with the five other housing associations and councils that take part in TAPPI, to share our successes and our challenges.
I will often have a check-in call with Jolie and Pete at Co-production Works, too. Sharing decision-making with residents is at the heart of TAPPI and we explore practical ways to do this.
Listening and responding to the lived experience of our residents is one of the most rewarding parts of my job.
Find out more about Platform Housing at https://www.platformhg.com/ (opens new window)
For more information on the TAPPI project, visit https://www.housinglin.org.uk/TAPPI (opens new window)