“What’s a hash key?”

Healthy Generations run projects to reduce isolation and improve the health and wellbeing of older people. Its Coordinator, Peter Crockett, explains how they’ve been helping to connect residents in Islington.

In February 2020 Healthy Generations ran 147 events for older people mostly equally split between exercise classes and various music events with a small 2 class a week sprinkling of digital classes.

March 20th, start of lockdown, zero events.

We began immediately putting exercise classes online. Most of our classes were public and users what we have come to call the “younger old” who in general are tech savvy.

The music events mostly took place in care homes and day centres and some sheltered housing schemes and for obvious reasons it was not appropriate to beam classes into one spot; too difficult to socially distance, especially in dementia homes. We decribe users in this situation as the “older old” and generally they are not tech savvy and often do not have anything more complicated than an old Nokia which they can’t do text messaging on.

Many residents are not tech savvy and often do not have anything more complicated than an old Nokia which they can’t do text messaging on.

So for the “younger old” going online was not difficult. For the “older old” it was. Not only were we not able to beam classes into one spot eg: the lounge, we were also not able to have individuals sign onto a class, they either didn’t have the equipment or didn’t have the ability.

So we began a befriending project so some of our musicians could carry on talking to people who used to come to the music sessions by phone and even play music which has gone well and kept us in touch with some quite isolated people. One lady 93 years old, had all her non-essential care visit terminated in March and only now is beginning to see her daily carer again. Fortunately she had family and her grandchildren visited everyday making sure food and medicine were all replenished. But she was really lonely and relished the twice a week telephone calls.


Older resident on a videocall by Georg Arthur Pflueger

By the end of July we were back up to 108 events in the month, nearly all online and nearly all exercise classes. We also do one Zoom digital class a week for Islington Pensioners Forum on Wednesdays at 4.30pm. If you would like to join send an email to healthgensorg@gmail.com and you will receive the link the morning of the class. We resolve problems with any type of digital equipment and do a lot on keeping safe online and avoiding scams and fraudsters. Next week we are going to look at finding things on Google and how to tell the useful from the scams and people who want you to pay for it

To sum up: The “younger old” have been easy. The “older old” need to be helped one-by-one and one example of the time and difficulty is the conversation I had with one lady who only has a landline. I explained she could join a Zoom class from her landline and she was fine with dialling the access number and even putting in the meeting code which needs to be followed by the hash key. “What’s a hash key?” “It’s the thing that looks like noughts and crosses.” “What do you mean?” “On your phone key pad.” “What’s a key pad?” Twenty minutes later we decided to give up and ask her son to ring me next time he was there. “Mum it’s that one!” “Oh.”

It takes time, it takes two, and it ain’t easy.


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