Blog: Helping older people through isolation with a new tech platform

Published: 23 Apr 2020

Author: Kerry Rooney
Blog: Helping older people through isolation with a new tech platform

As a result of the current lockdown, older people are experiencing isolation across the country and around the world. Having spent many years working closely with older people, I and my organisation Kaleidoscope wanted to do something to help. We recently launched a new social media platform exclusively for older people, to help them stay connected during the current pandemic.

"Such is the power of a Churchill Fellowship that even five years after completing my travels, the experience continues to have an impact on my work and on the wider world." - Kerry Rooney, Fellow 

As a creative organisation, we wanted to come up with a new way to help older people who are finding isolation difficult. We also wanted to give older people the tools and the support they need to remain physically, socially and mentally active during the lockdown. It was important to us that the solution should reflect the principles and ideas that have informed our work with older people for the last decade. We wanted to empower older people to help not only themselves, but also to help one another. 

Very quickly the idea for Greysnet emerged. We realised that the internet has the potential to be an incredibly important lifeline for older people at this time. More and more seniors across the UK are using the internet on a regular basis, but there is a real shortage of websites that are dedicated to older users. We decided to create an online space that was specifically for older people - a place where older people could connect with one another and access information. The name Greysnet was chosen to reflect these aspirations – our aim was to create a vast interconnected network of older people all over the country.

Our biggest challenge was getting the website up and running as quickly as possible. A project like this would usually take several months to come together, but we knew that time was not on our side and that solutions were needed right away. Thanks to an incredible effort by our team and everyone involved, we were able to condense months of planning, design and development work into just a few short weeks. We were aided in our efforts by a group of enthusiastic and determined older people, without whom Greysnet would never have been possible.

Greysnet was officially launched on Tuesday 7 April, and the response so far has been incredible. Thousands of older people all over the UK have logged on and signed up to the site, with more joining every day. The site is developing at an incredible speed and adapting to meet the needs of this new community of users. What is even more remarkable is how quickly news of the site has spread to other parts of the world - within the first week we had users from as far away as America, India and Australia.

Kerry Rooney, Artistic Director of Kaleidoscope

The global reach of the site makes me reflect on the impact that my Churchill Fellowship has had on my career. As part of my Fellowship, I travelled to San Francisco to work with an arts organisation that is dedicated to older people, called Stagebridge. I learned a great deal from my time with Stagebridge and I have brought many of their teaching ideas and techniques back to my own organisation. But my Fellowship has had a much deeper impact on my work and my philosophy.

San Francisco is one of the biggest hubs of technology in the world. The city runs on new ideas and innovation. The people of San Francisco pride themselves on being ‘first adopters’ - a phrase that reflects their readiness to try new things and to look for new ways of solving old problems. This passion and enthusiasm for innovation has inspired much of my work over the last few years. I am constantly striving for new ways of working, for collaboration and for new ideas. It is this commitment to innovation that led directly to the development of Greysnet.

I am exhilarated by the idea that an older person in San Francisco might one day soon be using Greysnet to communicate with an older person here in the UK and share their experiences of dealing with the challenges of coronavirus. Such is the power of a Churchill Fellowship that even five years after completing my travels, the experience continues to have an impact on my work and on the wider world.

Find out more about Greysnet