Lonely and isolated people in Aberdeen are getting connected with friends, loved ones and vital services thanks to a new digital scheme.
The city has been handed 240 devices under the Scottish Government’s Connecting Scotland project, which was set up to combat social isolation amid the current coronavirus pandemic.
A further 100 devices are also on their way to Aberdeen under the project, and another 45 are going to local organisations, taking the total allocation for the city to 385.
Under the scheme, iPads and Chromebooks are being delivered to people who currently have no such devices to keep them digitally connected.
Allan Clark, from Mastrick, is one of the people to receive an iPad and is using it to email family and friends.
Keeping in contact with people has been brilliant.”
The former maintenance engineer, who has motor neurone disease and lives alone, described the scheme as “brilliant”.
He said: “My link worker, Hollie, mentioned that the scheme was running and asked me if I wanted to be included.
“There are days where you feel isolated during lockdown. Right at the beginning, I was told that I was in a vulnerable group because of my condition.
“The MND in my left leg is getting worse and I’m basically wheelchair bound, so the iPad allows me to stay in touch with my 94-year-old uncle in Canada, to keep in contact with friends and to do online shopping maybe once a month. It’s better than using a phone because it’s free.
“Keeping in contact with people has been brilliant.”
Connecting Scotland is funded by the Scottish Government and is being managed by the Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations.
It is supported by Aberdeen City Council and Aberdeen City Health and Social Care Partnership as part of the Aberdeen Together initiative, along with other community partners including Foyer and SHMU.
The support is being provided to recipients by digital champions, who are on hand to help with problems and queries.
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Partnership transformation lead Gail Woodcock said: “People receiving the devices are using them to apply for jobs, help their children with schoolwork, keep in touch with family and friends, attend virtual GP and health appointments and access services online.
“Research has shown that loneliness and living alone with poor social connections is as bad for your health as smoking 15 cigarettes a day and has a greater impact on health than obesity.
“Lonely people are also more likely to suffer from dementia, heart disease and depression, so we are very hopeful that something as simple handing over a digital device will have a hugely beneficial health impact for many people.”
Fiona Clark, Aberdeen City Council service manager for libraries and community learning, said: “Many people have highlighted the impact of lockdown on their mental health and say that the devices have made a world of difference to them by offering means to maintain vital contact with others and giving them opportunities to keep active with online reading, learning and exercise programmes and activities.
“The feedback has been extremely positive, with people telling us they are now able to do so much more than they could do previously and are able to build and strengthen their connections and make new ones.
“People have also really appreciated the ongoing support they receive.”