A groundbreaking pilot scheme is looking to land older people in their communities as a provider redefines what it means to be ‘home’.
Residents of South Lakes Housing in Cumbria have become the first in the UK to trial an engagement app called MobileAge.
Locally based contact specialist Alertacall provided 80 interactive tablets with the application installed and ready to use.
Findings from the South Lakes study will be used to inform written policy briefs for the UK government as well as feed into results from similar pilots across Europe.
The MobileAge project aims to use specially developed technology to encourage older people to be more active and combat loneliness.
Just over the border this week, the potential in digital tenant engagement was put to Housing Scotland 2019.
Delegates at the SFHA annual conference were urged to challenge assumptions of technology as generational to get digital in their DNA within 10 years.
The app adopted by South Lakes was developed by experts at Lancaster University as part of a two-year, Europe-wide study.
“It is fantastic to see the success of the pilot with South Lakes Housing,” said research leader Prof Niall Hayes.
“Better connecting older adults with their communities is very important if we are to tackle the so-called ‘loneliness epidemic’.
Hayes continued: “The app has been designed to be purposefully simple so should be easy to use, and family, friends, neighbours and carers can access it on behalf of a friend or relative to help them plan their weeks.
“It is designed to reduce cognitive strain by putting valuable information at the users’ fingertips that would otherwise take 100 clicks to reach, or a lot of time and effort to find out in person or by telephone,” said Prof Hayes.
South Lakeland was selected as the UK’s pilot area based on its ‘super-ageing’ population, with data showing 25.5% of residents are aged 65 or over – compared to a national average of 17%.
In addition, the area has seen a 36% increase in the number of over-85s who live alone.
The tablets are now operational in the towns of Kendal, Windermere, Ulverston and Kirkby Lonsdale.
Martin Cutbill, director of Alertacall, a firm providing technology that allows thousands of people across the UK to live safely in their own homes for longer, said: “Alertacall has a close association with Lancaster University, and the aims of the MobileAge study are closely aligned with our own.
“The MobileAge app has been designed to show technology can play a vital role in helping people to stay connected to their community. By making it easier to find out more it will give people the confidence to join in activities nearby.”
“We have provided customised tablets across four locations so that residents can try it out, and we have been working directly with them and the housing provider to make sure they know how to make the most of the MobileAge application,” he said.
Gordon Sisson, from South Lakes Housing, said the app was already helping residents to become more active so they can take part in social activities and meet new people in their local area.
“We are really excited to be part of this innovative project, which aims to reduce social isolation and aid integration into community activities,” he said.
“We are always looking for ways to support the independence of our sheltered tenants, and MobileAge is helping to do that in an innovative way.”