Lonely elderly residents encouraged to use Facebook by Chichester University initiative

University students are urging elderly people to learn to use social media so they can feel more involved in their community. Courtesy of University of Chichester
University students are urging elderly people to learn to use social media so they can feel more involved in their community. Courtesy of University of Chichester

Lonely elderly people have been encouraged to use social media to feel more involved in their community by a University of Chichester initiative.

According to the university, the project, developed by students, aims to help prevent isolation among older residents in West Sussex through the use of new technologies.

University students. Picture courtesy of University of Chichester

University students. Picture courtesy of University of Chichester

Postgraduate student Nicholas Jenner, of the MSc degree in Digital Marketing at the University’s Business School, who developed the initiative as part of his dissertation, said the response has been 'extremely positive'.

He added: “When we started the sessions, I asked the group to turn on a phone, take a photo, and then send it as an attachment in an email – and only two were able to do it.

“It’s taken just three classes for those involved feel much more confident on their phones and safer online.”

The university said the pilot sessions, hosted in the University’s new Tech Park in Bognor Regis, were attended by 15 Trust members.

A spokesman said: "The development was opened last month and provides specialist courses in science, technology, and engineering.

"Members of the Bognor Regis Hotham Park Heritage Trust were invited to join a pilot study, which taught basic smartphone and tablet use as well as how to take photos and use Facebook."

Hotham Park Heritage Trust member Rosemary Warren said she hoped to learn how to use Facebook to communicate more often with her family.

She added: “There is a need for classes like this, and the students have been extremely patient and helpful.

“It’s particularly useful for the Trust as we want to build our own Facebook page to publicise our events and get more involvement from people in the community.”

The university said that, according to charity Campaign to End Loneliness, more than 51 per cent of people aged 75 and older live alone and two-fifths of older people claim that the television is the main source of company.

The spokesman added: "The pilot series saw the students partner with members of the Heritage Trust for one-to-one tuition sessions about how to use new phone and tablet technology."

The initiative was overseen by senior lecturer and marketing specialist Jennie White.

She said: “A number of charities in the older-age demographic are looking at skilling up older generations to prevent a polarisation of those that can use technology and those that cannot.

“We now hope to roll the initiative out to a wider group to help with loneliness and counter some of the polarisation of our community.”