As I reported in my previous post, I’ve just completed a team exploration at socialreporters.net into how we may use digital technology later in life for personal wellbeing. It has thrown up some wider lessons about how we might think about, and use, digital tech at any time in life.
The idea of an exploration as on open curating and reporting process came about from some work with the Big Lottery Fund, and then when the Nominet Trust invited me to write a provocations paper about young people and technology. Background on that here.
Instead of a closed research and drafting process, why not crowdsource ideas, run a workshop, develop contacts and aim to generate momentum around the topic at the same time? As I’ve summarised here, that process worked well on our latest exploration as well as the earlier one.
It’s now time to see what more we can achieve, and to do that it seems appropriate to move from the structured approach we designed with our client on socialreporters.net, to something more free range, personal, and maybe a bit more provocative. I’ve explained the reasoning here.
John Popham has already made a start with an excellent post following up an issue I highlighted – the lack of collaboration between the bigger organisations in the field. That’s partly, I think, because there is intense competition for funding and little trust that a good idea or new theme won’t be picked up by another organisation without an offer of some part to play. However, John raises an even more fundamental issue:
The professionals and institutions which work with some older people are not comfortable with new technologies themselves. Issues here range from organisations which continue to block use of social media and will not or cannot provide their staff with smartphones, to technophobic frontline staff who pass their fears on to people they work with.
The organisations researching or promoting the use of digital technology with older people, often under the digital inclusion banner, may not be using it. Their “clients” are in reality funders who may not have a very nuanced idea of what’s needed either … so policy and development defaults to teaching people how to use computers and getting the numbers up for those allegedly engaged.
John identifies another couple of barriers to progress: the scariness of unfamiliar technology, and the lack of confidence (or willingness) of those who may be able to help older people to do so.
While these issues may be particularly evident later in life, I think they apply to many organisations and for many people at any time in life.
So one of the themes I’ll be exploring is whether we might use the challenges, and opportunities, of digital technology later in life as a good window through which to look at technology in life. Our tag has been #dtlater. Should it now be #dtinlife? The government’s policy of moving services – and benefits – online means that opting out is difficult. Either you learn to cope with tech, or have someone act as a proxy.
Below are some of the 10 propositions we developed for the digital tech later in life exploration, that seem generally relevant to any time of life. Full report here.
- Look at personal needs and interests as well as common motivations – one digital size won’t fit all.
- Build on past experience with familiar technology as well as offering new devices – they may do the job.
- Consider the new life skills and access people will need as technology changes our world – using technology is ceasing to be optional.
- Turn the challenge of learning about technology into a new social opportunity – and make it fun.
- Address social isolation and other challenges through a blend of online and offline – they don’t need to be different worlds.
- Use digital technologies to enhance existing connections of family and friends – and help each other learn.
- Look for ideas among those providing digital training and support – and help them realise them.
Here’s the main links cited above
- Ten propositions about digital technology in later life – on this blog
- Summary and update on our digital tech later in life exploration – on socialreporters.net
- Background resources for the exploration – on Storify.com
- Learning network on digital tech later in life
- Moving from exploration to cooperation – and moving from socialreporters.net to personal blogs
- Social technology in later life – let’s have some collaboration – John Popham