Ageing Better in Camden’s Older People’s Advisory Group (OPAG)
OAPG members have various different levels of technological devices, skills and confidence. For some a zoom call is no problem, for others it is a very big step to take. We have been doing our best to support the different needs in the group to keep people connected, as well as encouraging and supporting members to support each other and take the lead – a key principal in our asset-based work.
Members of OPAG (who wish to) have been calling each other regularly to check in and see how others are doing – this system has been devised and led by two older people in the group. Through this lots of group members are staying in touch with someone they know, as well as in some cases forming new or stronger relationships.
The group have also been sending in information they discover about activities going on across Camden that people can get involved in and centrally we have been sharing these in a newsletter. The newsletters are curated and introduced by a different member each week, so we are hearing about all different lockdown experiences, from hanging out the window to get your vitamin D to cycling on Hampstead Heath. This breadth in experience has also reminded us as a programme of the difference in skill and knowledge in our community, and that older people should not in this time all be stereotyped as ‘vulnerable’ – they are valuable assets and should be at centre of our response to COVID-19, as they are for all our work.
Another area of work that is important to mention here is our response for people who are not online at all. There are various reasons for this – lack of materials, wifi or data, lack of skill or lack of confidence and support. And some people just choose to not be online and this should be respected. We have been sending out hardcopy newsletters with at least one activity a week they can do without being online (they are difficult to find sadly and are getting more limited as we go further ahead in this crisis). We have also been doing small teleconference groups – a particularly successful one discusses Grayson Perry’s Art show which in on TV every week. However, these groups come at a cost literally, and in time and resource too, and can often only accommodate 3-4 people at most.
Resource for both getting those who want to be online and those who chose not to be or cannot be needs to be considered from various perspectives. We have been doing lots of research now have some contacts re getting access to devices, but the long term support and access to wifi are proving harder to solve.