Screen Shot 2016-05-10 at 09.42.31AGEING Better Middlesbrough is helping older people in the town get ‘tech savvy’.

Loneliness and isolation are becoming a bigger health risk to our rapidly ageing population, with some research suggesting that it is just as harmful to our health as smoking 15 cigarettes a day.

The Big Lottery Funded programme is working to reduce loneliness and social isolation for people over 50 in the town.

Digital Inclusion Officer Martin Jameson has been out and about helping older people become more confident with technology.

Janet, 91, and Ada, 80, from Middlesbrough, became friends whilst volunteering at the Salvation Army. Martin met with Janet and Ada and helped them with their iPads and smart phones.

Ada said: “Most people think age is a problem, but age is just a number.

“We’ve both been to computer class and it changed my life once I’d got going.

“Keeping in touch with my family and playing games on my iPad keeps my mind working.”

A report by UK charity Friends of the Elderly found that having access to the internet could tackle the epidemic by connecting older people.

Similarly, a report by social research charity the Joseph Rowntree Foundation concluded that social media such as Facebook and Twitter could be used to tackle loneliness.

Ada added: “My grandchildren text me all the time and I use my laptop and iPad. My iPad is smaller and easier to use.

“Martin from Ageing Better Middlesbrough has shown me how to get the best out of my technology.

“I email my nephew in America and friends down south. Technology keeps you going.”

Staff at Ageing Better Middlesbrough can help people who are feeling lonely by spending time getting to know them, giving them time to talk about thoughts and feelings as well as helping them meet someone who’s interested in similar things.

Ageing Better Middlesbrough Programme Manager Michelle Dawson said: “This programme is a real opportunity to make a difference to older people in Middlesbrough.

“Anybody who is interested in finding out more or becoming a member can visit our website.”

Louise Grabham, Middlesbrough Council’s head of Commissioning and Procurement and a member of the Ageing Better Core Partnership, said: “Middlesbrough Council is keen to continue to support Ageing Better Middlesbrough and welcomes the positive impact the project is having on people’s lives.”

If you or someone you know ever feel lonely or isolated from others you can call the team on 01642 257030.

You can also contact Martin for help with your technology on 07913 635508. Visit ABM’s website for more information www.ageingbettermiddlesbrough.org.uk