Sparko and Anchor Hanover: digitally connecting the digitally excluded

Penny Grosett headshot
Penny Grosett
Senior Community Engagement Manager, Sparko VRC

Loneliness and isolation can be a huge problem for older people; a problem that has severe impacts on physical and mental health. According to Age UK, people who don’t use the internet can be more likely to feel isolated from others; particularly so for those who are less mobile, as the internet can improve wellbeing by invoking a sense of community through connecting with others.

Sparko offers a new tech-based solution which aims to get older people digitally connected. It offers a unique combination of a human and technology enabled solution consisting of a set top box that connects to the TV and a simple remote control. This is designed to ensure that Sparko members continue to be part of a community, connected to loved ones, maintaining their independence and keeping mind and body active.

And when I say we’re getting older people digitally connected, I don't mean those who need support using a tablet or some assistance using email or video calls; I mean those who cannot or will not ever get digital.

We work in partnership with many organisations across the country, including Age UK’s, Housing Associations, veterans, local councils and more, to provide a range of services through Sparko, including live health and social activities (e.g. exercise classes, social events); tailored content and services from our partner housing organisations; video calls and messaging features; social prescribing; lifelong learning opportunities and much more.

My role involves working closely with our partner organisations to ensure that their members are getting the best from their Sparko community. One such partnership is with Anchor Hanover East London, where we work closely with Ann Brolan, Mia Golding and Zaniyah Selwood to put together a programme of events and activities that their older residents can benefit from. It’s nice to be able to learn from our partners what their members enjoy about Sparko, so we can make sure we are providing the best activities and content.

Ann Brolan, Wellbeing Development Manger, Anchor Hanover East London:

‘Part of my role is to try and tackle loneliness and isolation in our residents over 55. I do this through a number of ways with many local partnerships, including the Mental Health Foundation, Compassionate Neighbours and Age UK East London, but our partnership with Sparko has opened up possibilities about how we deliver our services for our older residents.

We are able to livestream activities, exercise classes and social groups, and provide health and social activities. Residents can easily have contact with neighbours and friends in other blocks - witnessing the joy of people reconnecting with their friends, and making new friends has been a real highlight. Many of these events would be logistically very hard to manage due to transport and people to escort residents, so this means that we are able to put on more activities and events than before.

We are also able to run a live in-person class, and live stream at the same time, so residents in different blocks can still participate. For us at Anchor Hanover, this represents excellent value for money, and we are hoping we can roll it out to more clients.’

As much of the country has spent a large amount of the past year online, in zoom meetings and video calls with friends and family, many older people have been left behind, unable to take advantage of the technology many of us are so familiar with. We are committed to ensuring that older people are not further excluded by the ‘digital divide’, and we will continue to work with our partners to get people connected.

And if you found this of interest, visit our dedicated Loneliness and Isolation topic pages 

Ann Brolan, Wellbeing Development Manager, AnchorHanover and Orit Eyal-Fibeesh, CEO, Sparko TV will be speaking at our HAPPI Hour on Compassionate Neighbourhoods on Tuesday, 20th July 2021. 


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