Updated September 2023
Where the least connected get the most attention
Inclusion in the Real World
Digital inclusion and digital participation
50+ Digital has been evolving naturally since 2005 — continuously, in different locations, with and without funding. What we do looks like total digital inclusion, but the outcomes are equally about social inclusion and community cohesion in the real world we actually inhabit.
Think of it as loosely-knit real-world social network with a physical base. It’s a place where everyone is valued for who they are, and who they have been.
Community Computing, Community Engagement
The Wednesday Digital Drop-in is a social event offering digital learners help and support with phones, tablets, laptops — and understanding the internet so that we can all use it safely and sensibly.
Our Monday Creative Together offers relaxed group learning and making tangible content for the web — skill levels from absolute beginner to workplace preparation. Current opportunities are on page Community Learning.
We started a new volunteer-oriented Friday Learning Together activity in September 2023 — more details on page Friday Learning Together.
Most of the regular volunteer team are older local people, some with long professional experience of the internet — but we are all learning because none of us are digital natives, and our lives have not been shaped by digital technology.
Everything we do is free — mainly at the wonderful Mildmay Community Centre. You don’t need an appointment. Just come. You might see people you already know.
Notes for volunteers
Supporting people to stay independent, active and connected
50+ Digital is a service managed by MRS-Independent Living – an established charity with firm roots in local communities.
You can make a difference in the Real World
We need more volunteer support at the Wednesday Digital Drop-in and Monday learning events. Most older people have good reasons to engage with the digital world, but may feel insecure because they have just started. Can you help them?
The most important skills you can bring are empathy and patience, which you probably have if you are reading this.
If you are a Digital Native, you are almost certainly technically ready – because most of the digital problems we deal with are basic, and most of the digital ambitions are realistic.
If you do have advanced or specialist digital skills, please tell us what they are.
Photographers, videographers, illustrators — we have an amazing opportunity for you!
How to volunteer at 50+ Digital
- You could start by introducing yourself in an email to firstname.lastname@example.org
- Our long-term volunteers came as individuals. However, we have considerable experience of hosting corporate teams. COVID stopped that successful program instantly, but we are ready for a CSR reboot.
Tech for drop-in and learning
- Our equipment is all refurbished (some by ourselves) and in good condition – reflecting our preferences for sustainability, recycling and repair.
- We encourage learners to bring their own device; sometimes they surprise us.
Specialist skills that would interest us
Most volunteers are IT generalists who are interested in people. And we always have opportunities for volunteers who would like to share specific specialist skills — could be long-term, short-term or intermittent, preferably with our service users, but not necessarily at the community centre. For example …
Non-technical experience & knowledge
- Employability (eg- you might have a HR background).
- Virtual communities.
- Collaborative software (eg- Google WorkSpace).
- Online privacy and security.
- Self-hosted WordPress; self-hosted Mastodon.
- Raspberry Pi.
- Laptop hardware, upgrades and management.
- Photo editing.
- Audio editing.
- Network mapping (eg- Kumu).
- Educational technology.
Notes for referrers
- The walk from Newington Green bus stops is about ten minutes for most people who are not in a hurry. The walk from Matthias Road bus stops is shorter, but less obvious.
- All facilities at Mildmay Community Centre are fully accessible and step-free.
- Unfortunately, we cannot offer screen-reader tech to service users with major visual impairment.
Current digital & social inclusion services include
Digital Drop-in – Wednesday afternoon (1-4 pm)
- An open drop-in and social event for all older people: details at Digital support for all older people
- Access to fast, secure wifi (Bring Your Own Device or use our laptops).
- Support and encouragement from a very experienced volunteer team.
- National Data Bank and National Device Bank schemes.
- Managed email (customised with Google WorkSpace) — seniors.org.uk for most older people, and bold.org.uk for those who are economically active.
- Advisory and signposting service for non-digital difficulties, eg- benefits, housing, etc.
Learning Together – Friday afternoon (2-4 pm)
- A new project at Mildmay Community Centre, combining Learn My Way with our longterm grassroots experience.
- Designed for digital beginners — and older people who are not beginners but still don’t feel confident in the online world.
Creative Together – Monday afternoon (2-4 pm)
- Courses, workshops and other forms of groupwork: details on page Community Learning.
- Monday afternoons (2-4 pm); prior enrolment sometimes required, so not a drop-in like Wednesday afternoons.
- Beginner-friendly sessions focussing on digital tech issues common to older people — so more about aspirations than problems.
- Smartphone training a speciality. When the weather is good, we sometimes organise outdoor mobile workshops.
Home and online support
- Occasional home technical visits for older people who are housebound, but do not need longterm tech support (NB: this is an add-on, not a core service).
- Occasional online support for older people who are already comfortable using the tech in their own home.
- A regular digital noticeboard describing current opportunities – by email and/or WhatsApp (with links to our blog posts). This noticeboard is available to service users who have completed a simple GDPR-compliant contact form, and to anyone else who has requested it. Details on page The 50+ Digital Email Noticeboard.
- This website – updated at least weekly.
- 50-Plus Digital welcomes all older people.
- Our operational map for digital support depends on neighbourhoods and transport links, rather than administrative boundaries.
Referrals in practice
- Our procedures are informal, brief and paper-free. To get started, please visit our Contact page.
- Although we are very interested in individual progress, we don’t offer casework, reports or updates.
- You can bring your clients to our drop-in, stay as long as you like, and return as often as you like. We will always be happy to see you, with or without a client.
- MRS-IL has a rigorous safeguarding policy — not yet online, but we can email you a PDF.