The struggle the older generation may have with accessing technology is not a concept that’s new. It’s a tale as old as time that as new technology progresses, the younger generation are always the first to divide and conquer. I’m sure I’m not the first millennial to take a look at generation Z with their affinity for Snapchat or Tiktok, or to watch my friend’s primary aged children learn to code as part of the curriculum and feel my age instantly. So imagine how much more so the generations that came before us might feel looking at that same technology.
South London Cares has always been aware of this issue and sought to support older neighbours to get to grips with their devices, to ask questions or receive training on various pieces of software in our monthly Technology Workshops. Volunteers, both corporate and younger neighbours from the SLC community have been involved for years, spending time connecting with the older community to help them navigate new technology and to feel more confident in their use of it.
Fast forward to 2020 and suddenly this support was more vital than ever. Facing a pandemic with a lockdown that kept everyone apart was a huge hurdle for those who were unfamiliar or lacked confidence with technology. Tech workshops in real life already provided challenges with language barriers around how we talk about technology, so how much more was an online programme of Virtual Social clubs going to demand from our community. It was a daunting prospect, a massive hurdle to overcome, but it was worth devoting all of our efforts and time into finding a solution if it meant keeping our community connected during a time of immense isolation.
Thus Zoom Tech Support was born, a phone-a-neighbour service that sought to support older neighbours to get set up onto zoom remotely over the telephone. Recruiting corporate volunteers or younger neighbours, the SLC team matched those who could help with the neighbours keen for support who had devices and an internet connection at home. After some trial and error, we devised an effective process and what began as zoom setup, became so much more than that.
In order to explain, let me introduce you to Anna & Jan’s story.
Older neighbour Jan has been part of the SLC community for many years. Just like many of our older neighbours when the pandemic began, Jan found herself in a situation where she had to stay home but she wasn’t equipped with the skills she needed to live life remotely with full access to the online world. When she found out about Zoom Tech Support she signed up straight away because she wanted to be able to use Zoom confidently, not only so that she could join in with Virtual Social Clubs, but so that she could keep in touch with her friends and family.
Anna first became involved with Zoom Tech Support because she worked for a company who signed up to be a source of corporate volunteers during the pandemic. After moving house just as the country locked down, Anna found herself living alone for the first time and instead of the independence she hoped to feel living solo, facing the lockdown alone was challenging. When Anna heard of the opportunity to volunteer she jumped at the chance to help people and with spare time on her hands and not much to do, it was a welcome distraction.
Both Anna and Jan went into Zoom Tech Support with one outcome in mind, but what happened between them far surpassed their expectations.
After spending several support sessions together, Jan could successfully navigate Zoom and was very grateful to Anna for her time. Not only this but Anna introduced her to several different online activities such as docusign and submitting meter readings.
Whilst they spent time together discussing technology, tangents in conversation led to the discovery of common interests. Jan didn’t just find out how to use Zoom and various other online systems, she found someone she could talk to and find connection with. Anna didn’t just do a good deed and feel the buzz of helping someone, she found someone who was willing to listen to her, who cared for her in a really challenging time and who she struck up a real rapport with.
It may have begun as a form of technology support, but what Jan and Anna have discovered is a true friendship, a real relationship that has authentically benefitted both of these wonderful women which has moved beyond zoom tech support and into a permanent love-your-neighbour match.
This story is not unique. It’s the most beautifully unexpected consequence of a very real need to tackle the difficulties of the pandemic.
If we can create this kind of mutually beneficial connection through some online tech support, how much more can we build community and tackle loneliness through our extended programme of social clubs. With both virtual and face to face opportunities to facilitate new friendships across South London, it is so exciting to see just how much stronger this community will become.
Posted by Enoch Adolfo on Wednesday 1st August 2018
Enoch designs and delivers Social Clubs across Southwark and Lambeth. Previously Enoch worked as a professional musician as a Drummer and worked on a start up in East London working on a cycling app.