10 May 2013

At first glance, iPad’s and older people might not appear entirely compatible bedfellows- products of different eras, never meant for cross-pollination or integration. FACT’s most recent iPad project however, which has been supported by Your Housing and The Baring Foundation, has proved any such assertion to be wide-of-the-mark

Over the past six months, armed with ten iPad’s and a projector, group facilitators- myself being one of them- traveled to a collection of sheltered housing schemes in the North West of England delivering workshops on computer literacy. The sessions encompassed basic navigation of a tablet computer, apps, social media, Skype and exploration of the world-wide-web.

‘It’s good to keep the brain alert as you get older!’ remarked Mary McVEvey, one of the participants. ‘The opportunity to learn something new and relevant to modern life, that bridges the gap between generations, is really good.’

For some participants the project represented a starting point in computer use, for others it served as an opportunity to brush up on existing skills whilst learning a variety of new ones. 

‘It’s been educational, enjoyable- and now I really want to buy an iPad!’

iPads, contrary to initial skepticism, perhaps, lent perfectly to the project. The large touch screen, the easy-to-use nature of the Apple desktop, and the functionality of apps, made them serviceable to the needs of the older people involved. So much so that around half of the projects participants have invested in iPads since it’s beginning. 

‘They’re just fun to use aren’t they! It’s more like a toy than a computer!’ suggested Mo from George Moore Court. 

Alongside the fortnightly sessions that I delivered, that focused upon the technical practicalities of using a tablet computer, artist collective Re-Dock also conducted workshops, aiming to initiate a creative awaking in participants. Using iPads, Re-Dock proposed conversations about communication and the role of computers in our lives- in the process building on the practical skills that were learnt in my classes. 

‘Prior to these experiences I couldn’t event turn one on! We’ve used the camera, made videos, sent Skype messages to the past. Its all good information and now I use an iPad all the time’ Bill, Brian Cummings Court.

In an ever evolving, technology-defined society, computer literacy is paramount. This iPad project has fostered key skills to participants and illustrated the necessity of computer-based knowledge. An absence of computer literacy in contemporary society equates to uncertain circumstances; ultimately ostracisation; which is much more serious when older members of society are involved.  

‘We’ve learned that using computers in later life can really improve well-being and a sense of connectedness.’

The Can You Hear Me? I Can See You! project has served as a fun-learning platform, with a legacy of immersed, aware and computer literate older people. Come down to FACT on 17 May during Light Night to meet the artists find out more about the project, and to observe the collaborative artwork being exhibited. The exhibition will run until 2 June 2013.