The Stroke Association supports a network of over 500 voluntary peer support groups across the UK. Living with the effects of stroke can be very isolating. As well as building a network of peer support groups across the country to reduce this isolation, we believe that by encouraging our groups to embrace 'digital' that this could help reduce the feeling of isolation even further.
Digital is the future. It offers us the opportunity to diversify the way in which social and peer support is offered and accessed. Barclays Bank has invested in developing its workforce as 'Digital Eagles' to support people to access technology and the internet. The Stroke Association local voluntary peer support groups bank with Barclays; therefore it seemed a fantastic opportunity to trial a 'Tea and Teach' session with members at one of our groups.
A 'Tea and Teach' session is an informal and friendly opportunity for members of a community group to speak to a trained Digital Eagle about technology and to improve their confidence with all things digital. Two Digital Eagles recently visited Bolton West Stroke Support Group in the North West and held a 'Tea and Teach' session. Before their visit, colleagues at the Stroke Association sent information about stroke, including the hidden effects, for the Barclays staff to read. This gave them the basic knowledge and confidence to understand and overcome the possible difficulties people living with the effects of stroke may have with accessing technology.
The group members were encouraged to bring their personal devices so that the Digital Eagles could help them with any access questions, problems or personal interests. The group naturally formed into a discussion, with members helping each other, as well as the Barclays staff answering any questions the group may not know the answer to.
The team helped one stroke survivor remember their Facebook login details by showing the group the 'remember me' button. This individual hadn't been on Facebook, seen photos of her family, read posts from her friends for a long time because she simply couldn't remember her login details. Now, after the team installed the Facebook app on her iPad, she is just a click away from being engaged with her friends and family again.
Another example included using Siri, the voice recognition software readily available on all IOS devices. One stroke survivor had slight difficulties using his fingers on the iPad. It wasn't necessarily limiting his accessibility getting online, but the Digital Eagles showed him how his iPad could turn speech into text. This is again a simple trick, but could have a positive impact on someone's confidence to get online after having a stroke and being unable to use their hand(s).
Every year there are 152,000 strokes in the UK. This equates to 1 every 3.5 minutes. Stroke can have a devastating impact, happening in an instant, its effects lasting a lifetime. We believe that by allowing our peer support groups to 'become digital' that it will increase the ways in which people affected by stroke can hear about, connect with, and access local peer and social support.
We believe that supporting people to access technology and learn to use it in a safe and supportive environment will build confidence, reduce isolation and connect with moving technology and online systems. After the success of the first 'Tea and Teach' session in Bolton, we're excited to run a mock session at our UK Stroke Clubs Conference at the end of the month, in recognition that groups across the country will look forward to inviting 'digital' into their peer support offerings.