Salford OAPS master the art of the ‘selfie’

20 March, 2015

Tech savvy schoolchildren have been teaching Salford's senior citizens the art of the ‘selfie'.

Pupils have been helping pensioners get to grips with tablet technology as part of a project aimed to tackle isolation launched by Salix Homes.

Salix Homes has teamed up with Salford charity Inspiring Communities Together, digital training initiative Go On Salford and Salford's Integrated Care for Older People Programme, to launch Tea and Tech sessions at its sheltered housing complexes for the elderly.

As part of the project, Albion Academy pupils, aged between 11 and 15, have trained as Digital Champions to teach the older generation essential IT skills using a tablet device, including how to email, Skype, online banking and and browse the web. And the residents at Muirhead Court in Charlestown have even been learning how to play Angry Birds and take the perfect selfie.

Margaret Rose Martin, 74, is enjoying the workshops with her 15-year-old mentor Liam Cole. She said: I had never been on a computer before in my life and at first I was really nervous because I didn't think I'd be able to do it, but Liam is the perfect teacher. He's taught me how to email, play Angry Birds and he's shown me how to take a selfie.

Despite the generation gap, the pensioners and their teenage mentors have struck up unlikely friendships.

Liam, from Lower Broughton, said: Margaret was really nervous at first, so to put her at ease we had a little sing song together and sang some Vera Lynn songs and now she's doing really well.
I love seeing Margaret, she really makes me laugh and she always has a big smile on her face when she's playing Angry Birds. I think it's really important that we can share our skills with the older generation and we can learn from each other.

Keen poet Terence Morgan, 87, has suffered three strokes and wants to use his tablet to type up his poems and read e-books.

The great grandfather of three, who is being mentored by Mikey Hannon, 15, said: After my last stroke two years ago I forgot everything and anything I did know about computers had gone, but Mikey has been going through it very slowly with me and he's very patient. I'm learning how to write up my poems and eventually I want to write my life story.

Mikey added: I've taught Terence how to create documents for his poems and we've been on some poetry forums. Next I am going to show him how to Skype, so that he will be able to speak to his family in New Zealand. I hope that what Terence has learnt will help make his life easier.

Great grandmother Maggie Thorpe, 78, suffers severe pain in her back, but says the new skills she's learnt are making her life easier. She added: The course has been smashing and I've enjoyed it so much that my husband has now bought me my own tablet. The skills I've learnt will make a big difference to my life because I don't have many hobbies and often have to go to bed because of the pain I'm in, but now I can use the tablet I'm hoping it will take my mind off the pain. 

The five-week Tea and Tech course has been piloted at Muirhead Court, but now Salix Homes is introducing the sessions at all its sheltered housing complexes across the city.

Sue Sutton, head of customer and neighbourhood services at Salix Homes, said: Our aim is to get as many of our older tenants on the internet as possible, which we hope will help combat the feelings of isolation which are so common for older people and enable them to reconnect with their families and friends online.

Whether they're learning how to email, searching for the best deal from their energy supplier or just playing games, this project has opened their eyes to a whole new digital world that most of us take for granted and it's wonderful to see their confidence grow.

And it's not just the older people who are benefitting, this project is helping to bridge the generation gap and form new friendships between young and old. There's a lot of negative stereotypes about young people and vice versa, but these sessions have successfully quashed those misconceptions as both generations learn from one another.