Elderly to showcase smart homes in digital inclusion project

DCMS unveils project to help ‘digital boomers’ get online

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A new pilot scheme to turn older people into digital advocates, through converting their properties into smart homes that they can show to others, is being funded by the government in a bid to increase digital inclusion.

The project, announced by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport this week, will see a small number of homes kitted out with tech and home owners trained up as ‘digital boomers’ to help others improve their digital skills.

The smart homes are being created in West Essex by a partnership led by Uttlesford Council for Voluntary Service. Those taking part will then open their homes for older people to visit so they can learn first-hand from their peers how to use smart technology to control household appliances, book GP appointments online, contact friends and family by video, and shop online. Younger, ‘digital buddies’ will also be on hand to support with digital skills.

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The scheme is one of three to be given a share of £400,000 by the DCMS to improve older and disabled people’s lives through the Digital Inclusion Fund.

Responding to the announcement, Clive Emmett, chief executive of Uttlesford Council for Voluntary Service, said: “Organisations across Essex are backing the Digital Boomers which will see older people redesign their relationship using technology to become even more tech confident and retain their independence for longer.”

Another project to receive funding is an app created by the Down’s Syndrome Association to help those with the condition to monitor their weight and exercise levels and enable them to connect with others.

And the fund is also being used to enable the Weldmar Hospicecare Trust to use technology to help end-of-life and palliative patients. The new project aims to develop technology to allow users to give daily updates about their health, as well as having remote consultations with doctors via video.

Margot James, digital minister, said: “We are committed to improving the digital skills of people of all ages and abilities so everyone can enjoy the benefits of modern technology. These innovative projects will not only help some of the hardest to reach people live healthier and happier lives but also boost our mission to make the UK the best place in the world to start and grow a digital business.”

Sam Trendall

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