World of opportunities opens for silver surfers

Towell House, residential home, Kings Road Belfast have opened a new IT suite. Pictured in Towell House Beverley Lowden(Care Assistant) and Olive McMullan.
Towell House, residential home, Kings Road Belfast have opened a new IT suite. Pictured in Towell House Beverley Lowden(Care Assistant) and Olive McMullan.

A taste of the Silicon Valley has come to one of Northern Ireland’s care homes with the opening of their new IT suite.

Claire Keatinge, the Commissioner for Older People in Northern Ireland, opened the new facility in Towell House in east Belfast where the 84 residents who now have Wi-Fi access in their rooms will be able to email their families and friends and talk to them via Skype or Face Time, or simply surf the net.

“It opens their eyes to the world in the safety of their own rooms,” said Jill Brooker, general manager of Towell House.

“It means when families come in they can take residents to the IT suite or use devices in their rooms for a quality spend of time.

“It is more creative and fun and more meaningful to the individual and it opens the gates to include them more into the world and give them more access to information.

“In the new IT suite we have four touch screen computers and one manual computer. We also have iPads for residents to use in their rooms.

“With coming into residential care, residents can feel as if they are segregated slightly and on the fringes of what is going on in the world.

“These are all older men and women who would have been the matriarch or patriarch of their families, who have moved into residential care and feel they have become fringe members of the family.”

Ms Brooker, who said the IT suite was set up thanks to fundraising, said each resident now has their own email address.

“And they have started already sending emails around the world,” she said.

“They also send me pictures of entertainment events in the evenings so my inbox is starting to get filled up.

“Some residents are more proficient than others on the computer, but that is changing thanks to the great support we get from pupils at Our Lady and St Patrick’s School and from Bloomfield Collegiate who come in regularly to help the residents.

“The kids sit and work with the residents and the students become like teachers where they share computer skills with the residents.

“Correspondingly our residents also talk about the things that interest them so they are both learning.

“We are delighted with the new facility which has opened so many doors for residents.”

At the opening ceremony Ms Keatinge commended the “new initiative which not only brings technology into the home, but which brings children and older people together”.

“This is a great opportunity for both generations to benefit from each other’s skills and experience, and also to make it easier for residents to communicate with family around the world and access information.”