“It has been wonderful! I’ve learnt so much and thoroughly enjoyed looking at the old photos of Leeds” – Dorothy
This week, 17-23 October, is Get Online Week when thousands of events take place in communities all across the country, showing people how the internet can make life easier, cheaper, healthier and more fun
Leeds Libraries and Information Service provide a fantastic range of activities and events to support people in later life and help them to age well and getting online is just one way of widening horizons.
Stu Hennigan, Leeds City Council’s Communities Librarian – East Area gives us the low down on what’s been happening.
Older people can often be at risk of social isolation, and libraries provide a warm, welcoming, safe and friendly environment for people to learn, be creative and have fun. As well the social opportunities provided by readers and writers groups, knit and natter groups and craft groups, we offer a wide range of free computer learning sessions to help people gain basic digital skills and empower them to become independent learners.
Using a desktop PC, laptop or tablet, we can show people how to get online and demonstrate the benefits this can bring, such as shopping online, sharing photographs with friends and family, researching family history, revisiting old memories and chatting to people all over the world. I once taught a 96 year old lady how to use her laptop so she could communicate with her son, who was a missionary in Peru; she came to the library to learn how to email, picked that up straightaway and was speaking to him on Skype before she knew it, which revolutionised the way she and her son could communicate.
We also offer groups specifically aimed at older people, such as the Golden Days groups that meet at Rothwell and Morley Libraries. These groups meet monthly and discuss a wide range of topics from tea etiquette to walking around the Scottish Isles; the group members are actively involved in the format of the group and future session planning. We also have a similar group at Hunslet Library which meets monthly to share memories of Hunslet . We provide Older People’s Mobile Libraries reaching out into parts of the community where access to book stock and other services may be limited, and we are also able to reach some socially isolated people via our at Home Service, delivering library materials and more recently piloting tablet sessions with people to enable them to access all the potential benefits of the digital world.
As well as services offered in branches, we are able to support older people’s groups in the wider community. Swillington Parish Council, working in partnership with Rural Action Yorkshire, recently set up a group for older people called Elderberries, which meets twice a week at Swillington Village Hall. Leeds Libraries supported this group by installing a ‘pop-up’ library in the village hall, with around four hundred books that are free to borrow for the group members. We also provided some IT support, holding drop-in sessions so people could speak to our staff about how to use their digital devices; we held a local history session online, using websites like Leodis to look at old pictures of Leeds, and staff from the Local and Family History Library visited the group to do a talk about old playbills from the theatres of Leeds. They were also approached about the Historypin project, which encourages older people to share their life stories and memories of Leeds.