(c) CSG CIC Glasgow Museums Collection

Digital activities with older adults during lockdown

Diana Morton, 27.05.2020
A case study from the Open Museum, Glasgow
The Open Museum is the community engagement team for Glasgow Museums.  Historically we have focussed on face-to-face interactions with communities and collections. But since lockdown, we have been developing activities to enable us to engage with groups digitally.

We realised that although there is a huge range of digital activities for families, older people are less well served. Yet older adults – many of whom live alone – are more likely to be self-isolating or shielding at home during the pandemic. Community groups are unable to meet them during this time, and care homes have closed to visitors.

Without these support networks many older adults are experiencing greater levels of social isolation.

To combat this, we decided to develop and pilot a programme of digital activities aimed at older adults working in partnership with communities.

One of the first activities we developed was a Skype daytime disco with local group, Weekday Wow Factor.

The concept is very simple: the group meets, chats and takes part in a short activity before joining in with an online disco. The activity is usually a quiz or a discussion based around museum collections.

We initially piloted two sessions and due to positive feedback we moved onto offering this service every Monday. We are now starting to work with Weekday Wow Factor’s Facebook Messenger disco group to offer similar activities.

Another partner has been Chest Heart and Stroke Scotland. It has an existing iPad club that has continued during lockdown, and we now send weekly activities to its members via email. These include discussion and reminiscence activities based in collections. This has proved popular with the group who email their responses back.

Much of life has gone digital, but not everyone has access to the internet. Alzheimer Scotland, through its Bridgeton Dementia Resource Centre, decided to compile a DVD that could be sent out to households, especially those without internet access. We have recorded a reminiscence session using archive photographs to contribute to this resource.

We also contacted all of the group leaders who have previously booked into our training activities and offered them use of our Glasgow Memories reminiscence iBook so they can run their own reminiscence sessions with service users.

We have also been posting weekly postcards from Glasgow Museums on our social media platforms using the photography archive as prompts for reminiscence.

The biggest challenges have been finding new ways of working. We piloted the ideas initially to see what worked. Sometimes the technology can make life tricky but working with community partners means the groups we work with are supported to connect and take part. We have been learning new digital skills as we go along and experimenting with our work.

We have evaluated informally with groups, asking for feedback from service users and group leaders about how they have found the sessions.

For others developing resources I would recommend working in partnership with communities to develop activities and resources that will be used. By linking with others, we can reach those who would never visit a museum website and download activities directly.

When lockdown is lifted there will still be lots of older people who will continue to shield from Covid-19. The groups that support them may well not be able to operate again face to face, so digital activities and resources will continue to be very important and we hope to continue the links we have built to ensure that we can support this.

Diana Morton is Open Museum curator for Glasgow Museums


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