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Meet Riley

Riley is an energetic 90-year-old who has lived in the borough for over 70 years. She's been a keen traveller, enjoying a few short breaks every year. She has always been a busy and extroverted individual, but after the passing of her husband twelve years ago, she found herself alone for much of the time. The isolation had a significant effect on her mental health overall.

"I was looking for places that could help with my feet; it was getting difficult to manage them myself. A friend recommended Age UK Hammersmith & Fulham, and I discovered you have foot care sessions. Whilst looking around, I asked someone nearby if anyone could have lunch here. That day, I had spaghetti bolognese, my favourite meal ever. I have been coming to the activity centre ever since."

Riley is enjoying coming to the activity centre for lunch. She feels like she's part of a community and gets a lot out of it. She enjoys having different types of company every day and getting to know the staff in the centre. Riley has a particular love for Tuesday and Friday lunches.

"I can't get out on my own, so coming here makes a big difference. Having friends has always been important to me, and I've always been a chatty one. I love the company and look forward to coming here; I get a lift home too – otherwise, I wouldn't be able to get out of the house."

Riley has always loved being around people. Even though she finds exercise physically challenging today, she still attends the Age UK Hammersmith & Fulham classes. We introduced Riley to our Reiki sessions to ease her pain and lower her stress. On top of relaxing at the centre, she also loves our lunch club, which gets loud and rowdy when it's time for bingo!

It's nice to be around people familiar with each other—it feels more like a family environment than just another group of strangers. Every day she says hello to many of our regulars as they come through the door and waves them goodbye when they leave.

"I think it's important that you keep active and get out of being surrounded by four walls as you get older. There's a beautiful lounge and garden here to relax and be in a different setting. You would be shocked at the difference that can make to someone. Don't forget about all the lovely cups of tea."

Many of us don't like getting older. Although it may feel like the end of a chapter, Riley says you still have a long book ahead of you. As you enter this new stage in life, you should find a source of joy. Keeping active, busy and social is her source of fun—and we think it should be yours, too!

"It's great to spend the day with people laughing and having fun. It's even better knowing I have a place to come where I'm loved and supported."

Meet Maurice

Maurice is a keen traveller and has lived in Hammersmith & Fulham for over 30 years. He enjoys walking throughout London, exploring the globe, and keeping up with the latest news.

At first, Maurice wasn't sure how to keep up with everything he needed to know, but then he discovered Age UK Hammersmith & Fulham. We hold regular Digital Skills and Internet Advice Sessions to teach those unfamiliar with technology to navigate their devices and become more confident on the internet.

"I remember I started visiting Age UK Hammersmith & Fulham because I heard they had a computer room. I wanted to keep up with the news and, more specifically, learn about Alzheimer's. I was blown away by the immense amount of information at my fingertips, and I've been learning ever since. Initially, I did not have a smartphone either - I do now." Maurice chuckles.

And that was just the beginning! Maurice has been learning and using computers ever since that first visit over ten years ago, and today he uses his smartphone to keep up with the news, shop on Amazon and eBay, and stay in touch with friends and family.

We thought a peer-to-peer experience for our newer digital skills learners might be helpful. So, we asked Maurice to share his experience at one of our Digital Skills Sessions.

"First, I thought it would be helpful for attendees to know that you're in a whole new world when it comes to online shopping. You can get your hands on things you can't usually get, and it doesn't take much time or energy. I've found that this is a powerful asset for growing my CD and record collection. I have a big love for all things classical music, and looking forward to a parcel is always fun—almost like an early Christmas gift, but way better!

I also wanted to make sure that I didn't forget any important points about online safety and security measures. This has concerned me a lot in the past, and I'm sure I'm not the only one worried about getting hacked or ripped off. First, I wanted to mention that the more time you spend online, the easier it will be to tell what's legitimate and what's not. It takes practice! Plus, as much as I try to find them, I hardly ever come across any scams—or any at all. Just be careful where you shop. Use your credit card just in case you need to claim a refund. If not, I would use PayPal to stay secure. Please change your password often and make it too complicated to guess, especially for those who know you well."

Mrs F attended the class and had this to say after hearing about Maurice's experience: "It was lovely to hear someone else say they were a bit frightened of the whole computer thing. I learned a few things and feel confident I'll be online shopping like Maurice soon."

We want to take this opportunity to thank Maurice for his time. We love to see Age UK H&F members being an example of good digital practice and encouraging others to get online!

Maurice feels it's important that others like him take the time to invest in learning digital skills that will ultimately give them more independence and freedom.

Meet Sarah

Amazing things happen when we work together. Sarah, a Digital Champion with Age UK Hammersmith and Fulham, is proof of that.

Sarah has been volunteering with Age UK Hammersmith & Fulham since 2020. She has been providing Digital Champion sessions from her home and on the go so she can support clients wherever they need it. The service, which offers 1-2-1 sessions, helps others understand the benefits of using the internet and show them how to do simple things online that can make a massive difference in people's lives.

Sarah loves volunteering because she feels like giving back to elders in her community who need help. "It's nice to be there to help people who need it. Knowing that I'm giving back makes me extremely happy. It also provides some respite to know that I'm helping older people stay independent or returning some of their freedom!"

Sarah says she has learned from her clients just as much as they have learned from her. "One client told me about the accessibility issues he faces daily, which made me realise how important it is for us volunteers to make our sessions accessible for all," she says. She adds that the digital team are always looking for new ways to support those who need the most help.

"I remember during the pandemic, I spoke with a dyslexic customer who struggled to communicate his issue. I explained that this was not a problem and the perfect learning opportunity. Thankfully he had access to a mobile, and whilst he did not know how to use it well, I quickly instructed him on how to access the text-to-speech features on his device. He knows he can now easily communicate with others within a button or just by talking to his phone."

Sarah's volunteer work has even helped her in her career. Along with new skills and a fresh perspective, she has found a new job since volunteering with Age UK H&F! She doesn't plan to stop anytime soon, and her advice for anyone interested in volunteering is simple:

"My volunteering experience has pushed me to try new things and encouraged me to grow beyond my comfort zone. I didn't realise the impact it would have on helping others, but giving people confidence in the digital world is something I am now very passionate about. I would say 'go for it to any readers considering a volunteer role."

Many of us use digital technology without realising it, while others miss out on its benefits without knowing it. In Hammersmith and Fulham, 12% of our residents (20,497 people) have never used the internet. This is just one of the areas we aim to tackle throughout our Staying Connected project. We are committed to providing the necessary skills to "digitally include" and empower people disconnected from the modern digital world. Having digital skills will assist in our fight against reducing loneliness and isolation whilst improving communication, health and wellbeing and providing access to information and services across the borough.

Meet Christine

When you're 66 years old, the world is slightly different from when you were younger. Technology has changed significantly since the last time Christine used a computer, and now she's trying to get back up to speed.

We want to help Christine become familiar with technology again so that she can use it to do things she wants to do (like send her family photos). She's been attending classes at our centre in Hammersmith & Fulham, and she seems to be gaining confidence in her ability to use technology.

"I wasn't sure how to use a computer, and I needed someone to show me how to use it to do things I wanted to do. It is so different from the one I used some time ago."

At the activity centre, Christine gets support from her digital champion—a volunteer who helps her learn new digital skills.

"When I'm at the activity centre, the digital champion will show me how to use it, and sometimes I forget what we've covered when I get home."

Although she feels her progress is slow, we've seen signs of steady progress. "The classes have helped me much; absorbing so much information will take time. I feel more confident now, though—it seems like less of a mystery than before."

Christine said the centre and being around others who are facing similar challenges makes her hopeful that she'll become more comfortable with technology over time. "I am a bit slow," she remarked with a smile, "but I think I will get there."

If you need help navigating technology or if you just want some extra practice—Our Digital Skills sessions are a great place to start!