Service deliveryAdult Social CareFree masterclasses launched by Vodafone to help tackle loneliness

Free masterclasses launched by Vodafone to help tackle loneliness

At these free masterclasses across the UK, the Vodafone tech team advisors will set up wearable tech and connected home devices and explain how they work

Vodafone is launching a nationwide programme of tech masterclasses – Techconnect. Free masterclasses will take place across the UK in 2019 following a successful pilot last month.

The launch was announced keeping in mind the findings of a new report commissioned by Vodafone UK. The report, Harnessing technology to tackle loneliness, reveals that digital technology can help alleviate loneliness among the over the fifties.

According to ONS data, a third of older adults (over sixty-five years) identify themselves as only a little confident or not at all confident in their ability to use electronic devices for essential online activities. In response to this Vodafone’s new report recommends increasing confidence using technology among this age group through these free masterclasses.

At these free masterclasses, Vodafone tech team advisors will provide information and advice. The sessions will on everything from how do I set up my phone to how do I use social media. They will also help set up wearable tech and connected home devices and explain how they work. These devices can help people live more independently for longer.

Role of technology in alleviating loneliness

The Harnessing technology to tackle loneliness report was launched at the House of Commons with the support of Secretary of State for Health and Social Care Matthew Hancock MP and Loneliness Minister Mims Davies MP.

It sets out how technology can play a vital role in alleviating loneliness in older people. The report says that technology can do this by keeping them connected to their family and friends for longer. However, it also highlights that a significant number of older people are not confident in using technology. The issues include accessing the internet.

It recommends the use of technology alongside more traditional community services to facilitate social interaction. It points out that learning how to use it more fully can reduce loneliness and promote an active lifestyle. This can help older people remain independent in their homes and communities. It would in-turn increase the confidence and the likelihood of positive interactions.

Technology used as a way of keeping in touch can help to maintain and build networks. It can also help to maintain contacts with friends and family. It can also allow accessing new communities and groups.

Working with IBM, Karantis360 has developed an IoT-based Assisted Living solution that will collect data on the movements and day-to-day activities of people in care.

The cost of loneliness

Harnessing technology to tackle loneliness looks at the financial implications of loneliness in the over the fifties. The report reveals a £1.8 billion per year cost to the UK economy.

It also reveals insights into the impact on individuals, employers and the cost to public services such as the NHS. Public services bear a financial cost of £1 billion a year, with studies conducted at GP surgeries indicating that those feeling lonely are twice as likely to visit their GP and 3.5 times more likely to enter local authority-funded social care.

For businesses, the financial cost of loneliness in the over the fifties is £800 million per year due to staff taking time off work to care for friends and family suffering from loneliness.

Matt Hancock, Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, said: “Loneliness doesn’t just have an economic cost – it has a profound human cost too, and can be hugely damaging to our health and happiness. It affects people of all ages and backgrounds and is something any of us or our loved ones could experience during our lifetimes. So it is important we do everything we can to reduce loneliness and isolation and provide help to those who need it.

“As people, we all need to feel part of something. This basic instinct of belonging and community is central to happiness – and is at the heart of our work across the health and care system.

“We launched our first ever loneliness strategy last year, and through our Ageing Society Grand Challenge we want to harness innovation to tackle loneliness and support healthy ageing. New technologies and services that can help people stay connected and independent will play an important role in this. We are also investing in social prescribing schemes through the NHS Long Term Plan to see healthcare professionals playing a vital role in signposting people to local services and connecting them back to their communities.”

Minister for Loneliness Mims Davies said: “Loneliness is one of the most pressing public health challenges we face and technology has a huge role to play in bringing people together.

“Businesses, charities and government are working together to reduce loneliness and build more connected communities. Vodafone’s work highlights how digital tech can be a part of the solution.”

Nick Jeffery, CEO, Vodafone UK said: “The cost of loneliness to the individual, their friends and the economy is vast. This cost is financial, emotional and physical. It requires a comprehensive response from government, charities, the health system and businesses. With an increasingly ageing population we have to act quickly and work together to help solve the problem of loneliness.

“Our report shows how technology and innovation, such as smart devices, as well as teaching tech skills can play an important role in reducing loneliness and enabling people to live independently for longer.”

Recommendations for policymakers and businesses

The report recommends social and digital prescribing, revolutionising support for independent living and Tech toolkit.

Social and digital prescribing schemes will enable GPs and health service practitioners to prescribe technology. Prescribed technology could be wearable devices and monitoring systems. Funding the take-up of technology in the home will support independent living. Further to funding, developing tools will support independent living and tackle loneliness. These tools will increase knowledge, understanding, and confidence in technology for older adults.

A series of twenty free techconnect events will take place across the UK in 2019. To register interest people can simply go to their local retail store or visit www.vodafone.co.uk/techconnect.

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