What we did:
Aware that lockdown had isolated many of Irvine’s older residents, North Ayrshire Council’s Connected Communities Irvine Locality Team wanted to encourage more of them to learn how to use video-meeting technology. The team came up with the idea of organising a Virtual Afternoon Tea over Zoom.
To minimise hitches on the day a ‘safe-space’ Zoom session was set up one week before the Tea to help people become comfortable with the process of joining a Zoom meeting, and the event itself was opened for an hour ahead of the official start to allow plenty of time to help anyone encountering problems.
Afternoon Tea ‘packs’ with sandwiches, cakes and bingo cards were distributed to all pre-registered participants on the morning prior to the start time. On the day 18 people took part. The event ran for two hours and involved break-out tea tables in which participants were guided through the use of the Zoom tools. There followed a Quiz, a pause for people to enjoy some social interaction, a Bingo session, an evaluation poll, and finally a professional musician volunteered his time to play some traditional Scottish music to end the event.
Who we involved:
The Virtual Tea Afternoon involved members of the Irvine Locality Connected Communities Team, members of local community groups run for and by older residents such as Irvine Seniors Forum, Broomlands and Bourtreehill Community Association; and members of the Vennel Community Hub.
The difference it made:
The feedback received via a poll conducted towards the end of the event was 100% positive with every participant voting that they would like to attend similar future events, would recommend the experience to a friend, and, most importantly, that they had had a good time.
Further spontaneous positive feedback was received by email from two participants both of whom reiterated their willingness to repeat the experience and encourage more people to join in.
Following the Tea, one week later we were contacted by a participant who had been invited to a Zoom meeting with a Scottish Government Minister. Our learner was delighted to report that she had been able to join and participate in the meeting without a hitch and credited this to the experience of being guided and supported through the safe-space and Afternoon Tea Zoom sessions.
This was a pilot event and the team gained the confidence to allow them to organise future events, with the aim of involving greater numbers.
What we will do differently in the future:
The purpose of organising this event was to help address loneliness and social isolation amongst people who are late adopters of digital technology. These are circumstances which were exacerbated greatly during lockdown and with the potential to lead to deterioration in mental health. Initiated by a request by local Community Associations for support to hold virtual committee meetings, the Team recognised the need to encourage wider participation among this demographic.
A graphical guide to downloading and using Zoom has now been published on the Irvine Virtual Community Centre and North Ayrshire Adult Learning Facebook groups for public use.
Although there will always be a desire to hold some physical meetings, there has been a realisation amongst both community workers and in community groups, that virtual meetings have benefits beyond lockdown. Over the winter months, for example, it is much easier to attend a meeting online than it is to go out on a wet and windy evening. Work is now under way to produce a user guide to holding effective virtual committee meetings with an illustrative video to follow.