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Leeds older people up and blogging

March 1, 2012

We have been working with Leeds Older People’s Forum since summer last year, and despite a few setbacks when it came to the flashdance (back in production), things have quickened pace of late and are moving on.

Back in late 2011 I met Adam Perry from Media Trust at a Big Lottery People Powered Change workshop. We got talking about our respective work programmes, and when I realised he was a Leeds resident and he heard we were working with Leeds Older People’s Forum, we were sure there must be a way to link up.

The older people we’re working with at Leeds Older People’s Forum have been, from the off, very keen to improve their knowledge and skills of digital tools such as social networking, blogging and video to support the campaigning activities they are planning. So when Adam mentioned Media Trust’s newsnet – a UK-wide community of citizen journalists, community reporters and local storytellers – and his interest in training people to become citizen journalists, there seemed a natural fit.

So Rachel, Development Officer at Leeds Older People’s Forum, and Adam discussed options and set up two training courses to support awareness raising of older people’s issues in Leeds.

The first, Hitting the Headlines, was one two-and-a-half hour session for staff from local Leeds organisations that support older people. The aim was to help them understand the media and news cycle and how to publicise their organisation and local issues to and through the media.

The second was a four-week training course on Digital Media for Older People. Each weekly two-and-a-half hour session was to focus on a different element of digital media – social media (Facebook and Twitter), blogging and shooting and using video.

The group was quite mixed – mostly female (seven to two), but ranging from 50 (the Administrator from Leeds Older People’s Forum) to 81 (a resident in sheltered housing in Pool). Each participant had at least one barrier to overcome. For some that was a concern about privacy or a lack of confidence, and for others it was a feeling of who’s going to bother to read what I put online? At the beginning it seemed like there was some work to do to convince this group of older people that using digital tools is easy, as involving as you want it to be, and a great way to get your voice heard.

So when I arrived for the final of the four Digital Media for Older People training sessions on Tuesday I was very pleasantly surprised to see everyone with their own fully functioning WordPress blog. And within minutes of arriving at the training session they were all logged on to their sites and practicing their new skills of posting blogs, complete with pictures and YouTube videos, and talking about what they’re planning for their blogs after the training.

After an hour of helping the new bloggers find their way through any minor hiccups, Adam moved the group on to filming. Many campaigns elsewhere have used videos to highlight concerns (e.g. Kilburn Older Voices Exchange (KOVE) uses videos to raise awareness on a number of issues faced by older people) and our partners at Leeds Older People’s Forum are keen to explore how video can help their campaigning activity. But with video editing being time consuming and tricky Adam thought it important to teach the participants the basics of shooting an interview which can go straight onto their blogs without any editing. So in groups of three they set about it. Please see the below a (quickly hashed together) video for some clips of them in action.

But what’s next? Well, the Scanning Group at Leeds Older People’s Forum, which is leading the campaign activity, is meeting on Monday to discuss next steps. But it seems the flashdance will be the excellent kick-start to a campaign for Leeds: a city for all ages using a variety of media to share a range of older people’s voices. And we definitely have a group of nine older people from across Leeds very willing and eager to use their new digital media skills to get those voices heard.

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