Loneliness and social isolation have increased dramatically over the past 6 months. Before the pandemic, approximately 50% of over 65s would say that they would experience loneliness at some time. The impact of Covid-19 presented a number of challenges for older people, as they were told they were vulnerable and needed to shield. Staying connected digitally during that time presented further obstacles as reports that over a third of over 65s aren’t currently online and 53% would struggle to pay for broadband.
Whilst we’ve been busy, the past six months has also given us the opportunity to reflect on our plans to accelerate our digital inclusion and engagement, ensuring we were in the best possible place to support our residents as we move forward with digital enhancements to our service offer.
Knowing our residents well is key to how we introduce new digital services in the future. Not just in terms of what technology we use, but how we support residents in the adoption and access of new services. We recently surveyed over 2000 of our independent living residents to understand their digital readiness and appetite to accessing available support. We felt that gaining this valuable insight would enable us to adopt an approach that valued our residents as individuals, instead of a one-size-fits-all solution.
One of the items we’ve been considering for some time is providing Wi-Fi as part of our offer, with 65% of the residents surveyed admitting they didn’t have access to Wi-Fi, we decided to develop a proof of concept at our newly redeveloped scheme, Spey House, where we took the opportunity to showcase the art of the possible and see what the future could hold for our independent living schemes. From digital noticeboards within the communal lounge to smart home technology within our show flats, we recognise the crucial role technology will play as we develop our service offer, to meet the expectations of our residents both now and in the future and how the impact of the options and support we provide, will have on their experience with us.
Our data showed that 15% of residents living at Spey House had broadband access within their property. Working with Social Telecoms, we are now running a ‘flood-fill’ Wi-Fi proof of concept to establish demand and impact, which we can then develop into our evolving service offer. With a new residents portal on the way, with increased functionality, it was the ideal time to really understand some of the barriers our residents face when accessing online services.
The Wi-Fi connectivity is also allowing us to trial new TEC equipment, with the show flat acting as a demonstration of the art of the possible with digital sensors, alarms and wearable devices.
Within 24 hours of going live, we saw that 15% of residents had activated their Wi-Fi voucher to gain access. We knew that 88% of Spey House residents did not have a broadband connection in their property and we’re so pleased that we’ve almost doubled the online access of our residents in this scheme in the first weekend.
To support this trial and increase the number of residents accessing the new service over the coming weeks, we will be publishing a series of short guides on key digital inclusion topics such as creating an email account, online safety, and connecting to ourselves digitally.
Alongside these guides, we will be regularly speaking with the residents to gain a better understanding of the impact resident feel that the provision of Wi-Fi has had and how we may support our residents in continuing to increase and gain confidence and skills, removing the worry of isolation and helping them live longer and better by connecting confidently in a digital world.
The data we will gather, from usage and support calls through to content accessed and anecdotal feedback, will be used to understand more about what our residents value in their homes. Data is driving our decisions for the future! #oneteam #nationalcustomerservicesweek #digitaltransformation #hearingthecustomervoice