Last month, Susanna Bass brought a team of volunteers from Transport for London to one of our Techy Tea Parties and helped to teach digital skills to older Londoners. In this week’s blog, Susanna discusses her experience and explains why these events are so important.
I was recently on the look-out for a volunteering opportunity for my team, and came across Age UK London’s Techy Tea Party programme. This involves different organisations running sessions to tell older people a little about the work that they do, and then give them a chance to ask questions about any issues they are having with any of their electronic devices.
More importantly though, a Techy Tea Party provides an opportunity to have a cup of tea and a chat with some older people. I work in a technical team at Transport for London responsible for building complex models to help plan London’s road network, so I thought a Techy Tea Party would be an ideal way for us to help make a difference. As it transpired though, at lot of the older people who attended were much more technically savvy than we were!
I would highly recommend organising a Techy Tea Party to any team or organisation wanting to help support this wonderful charity. We were shocked to hear the statistic that 44,000 older people in London over the age of 75 have not had a conversation with friends or family in a month, and recognised the great work Age UK London are doing to tackle this. Our Age UK London contact, Danny, couldn’t have made the planning part easier for us and we were able to host the event at Age UK London office in Tavistock Square. He let us know exactly what to expect, and enabled us to plan a really enjoyable afternoon.
We started the event off with tea, cake and biscuits, and as our guests arrived, my colleagues and I started introducing ourselves and having a chat. I met some fascinating people; someone who used to be a bus driver from the days before our organisation was called ‘TfL’, a lady who was really interested in sociology and how people’s behaviour towards travel was changing, right through to a gentleman who admitted he wasn’t really interested in technology but was just there for the cake!
We then went through three short presentations; one covering the role of my team and the sort of projects we get involved in; one talking about the different services offered by TfL (such as Journey Planner, ‘Please Offer me a Seat’ badges and dial-a-ride); and finally covering some of the non-TfL apps which use TfL data and/or help make travel easier, introducing some of the popular journey planning and air quality monitoring apps available. Throughout these presentations we received a lot of interesting questions, comments and feedback, which made for a fun and interesting discussion, and it was great to hear the perspectives of older people about travelling around London.
Afterwards there was time for us to help with any technical queries, and this was where many of my colleagues fared a lot better than I did, being a lot more competent than I am when it comes to smartphones and tablets. One gentleman taught me a few things about tablets whilst I was meant to be helping him! We helped to install apps, send texts and emails, clear out filled-up memory cards and offered to take a few trickier queries away with us. We also noted down some feedback to take back to the office and submit to our Customer Enquiries team for a formal response. There was also further discussion and questions about our presentations and models.
We received some lovely comments at the end from our very attentive guests, and my colleagues and I had a very fun afternoon. I found some of the older people’s ideas and perspectives about travel in London really thought-provoking, and I have met some funny, lovely and interesting people.
A huge thanks to Danny and Age UK London, and I really look forward to doing something similar again in the future.