Safety, health and wellbeing first

20 March
  • We have made a new website for all our online events. It’s called 50+ Digital – https://50pd.uk
  • We have passed all our resources to local charity MRS – Independent Living
15 March
  • The Community IT Drop-in is still alive, but we do have to change the way we operate. Your safety, and the safety of your family, now has absolute priority.
  • All our drop-in and podcast activities have stopped at Whitmore Community Centre. We don’t know when we might return.
  • We are now investigating ways of delivering those activities online. This is not in any sense a technical challenge. We have the resources and experience — but we are determined to maintain our Real World First ethos.

Real-world drop-in closes, online drop-in starts soon

Meeting room at Whitmore Community Centre - no people, tables and chairs stacked

Real-world drop-in closed, not suspended

Our last session was 2 March. The 9 March drop-in was suspended. Today we felt that it was unsafe even for a podcast session with only six people in the room — so that had to be cancelled too.

We cannot tell you when we will be open again.

Online drop-in, online learning

The whole point and purpose of the drop-in project is real-world social inclusion — explicitly counteracting the social distancing of the virtual world. But now we have to counteract the really serious effects of social distancing implied by the COVID-19 crisis.

So we are going to fast-forward existing plans to offer an online drop-in and online learning to older people who are isolated at home. That might be all of us soon.

Many of you already have the basic resource — a GSuite account. More than 100 people have email accounts at seniors.org.uk, bold.org.uk, szs.net or agewell.org.uk. Those are all GSuite accounts, and they all provide immediate access to an online meeting room app named Meet. We could add about 450 more, and it’s all free for us.

If you have a smartphone, tablet, laptop, or a desktop computer that is not too old — and an Internet connection at home, you should be able to use GSuite Meet. We expect that many of you will need help while you are using it, so we will recruit volunteers to join the sessions.

The online drop-ins will be group events, not conversations between 2 people — so you can expect to see familiar faces and hear familiar voices.

We still have many details to work out, and we still don’t know how we can include digital beginners and people with no Internet at home.

The 24/7 Online Drop-in

Everybody with one of the GSuite accounts has already received a link to the first experimental online drop-in. We are still testing it, so nothing much will happen for a few days. The information you need will be in your email and messages soon.

Our response to the COVID-19 coronavirus

Normal drop-in has been suspended

(Edited after posting to remove references to Whitmore Community Centre, which does not figure in our current plans).

After the 2 March session, we suspended the weekly drop-in because Internet access had stopped — but we were expecting to return quite soon.

But on the following day, we realised that Internet access had become irrelevant. We can’t restore the normal drop-in until the COVID-19 crisis is over.

That doesn’t mean we can’t do anything — but we would have to make substantial changes to ensure your safety. Here are some of the ideas and principles we are working on …

COVID-conscious etiquette and safety

  • High-visibility reminders of current guidelines and information — on the walls and on our screens.
  • Wash hands before entering or re-entering the meeting room, and again before leaving the building.
  • Keep at least 2m from every other person.
  • Don’t come if you feel the least bit unwell.
  • Don’t come if you live with, or care for, other people who are more vulnerable.

The equipment we use

  • Many people bring their own devices. We can insist that they should be clean — and not used by anyone else, not even volunteers.
  • Most people also use our laptops. We can ensure that each laptop is used by only one person during each session and cleaned after use. After that, they go back into the cupboard, and are not touched again until the following week.

Transport

  • Possibly the greatest risk.
  • Don’t use public transport unless you really must — and never during the rush hour.
  • We can adjust our opening and closing hours, eg- to finish at 4 instead of 5 pm.

Keeping in touch with you at home

  • We are giving a lot of thought to this, but there are no easy solutions.
  • We have email addresses and phone numbers of nearly everyone who has been to the drop-in recently — that’s you and about 300 others. So maintaining contact is not the main problem. Most people want real-world face-to-face help or support. That’s our speciality.
  • However, remote and online communication is well within our technical competence — and we expect to have at least one workable proposal soon.

Workshops instead of drop-in

  • We know there is a demand for short courses and workshops. We haven’t been able to meet it because the demand for open drop-in has been so much greater.
  • Last time we arranged Monday afternoon workshops was October 2019 (Google Photos 1 and Google Photos 2). We were instantly oversubscribed — but we were in control of the numbers. All we would have to do is reduce the maximum from 15 to 8, and repeat to prevent disappointment.

Audio activities

  • We haven’t done podcasting or Internet radio for a while — simply because we have been far too busy with the drop-in.
  • Both are suitable for small groups of people, and explicitly require you not to handle the equipment.

Your ideas, your preferences

It could be a very long time before we can get back to how it was last week. But what do you think we could do next week, next month, or the remainder of the year? If you  are a regular drop-in user, you probably know how to contact us quickly. The details are also on our Information page.