Oxford Brookes Business School empowers older adults with digital skills

A man learns digital skills
A man learns digital skills in workshops run by students from the Oxford Brookes Business School.

Oxford Brookes Business School students are bridging the digital generation gap by sharing their expertise with older adults.

Research conducted by Age UK reveals that 25% of UK residents aged 65 and above do not use the internet, citing issues such as lack of trust, skills, and access to necessary equipment and broadband services.

Inspired by a research project led by Oxford Brookes Business School (OBBS) professors Sarah Quinton and Daniela Treveri-Gennari, which explored how older individuals use photo sharing to combat loneliness, the Business School started termly workshops. 

The sessions aim to empower older adults to engage with digital technology, addressing issues of confidence and skill deficiency identified in the research. Launched in 2022 in collaboration with the Oxford 50+ network, the workshops have not only helped participants to navigate digital platforms, but to also find a sense of community and companionship in the process.

Workshop activities include essential online tasks such as online shopping, email attachment, bill payment, ticket booking, and social media photo sharing, facilitated by the students.

A celebration event was recently held at Oxford Brookes, sponsored by the British Gerontology Society, in recognition of the intergenerational work being done by Oxford Brookes Business School to enhance older people’s lives. Students were awarded certificates for their participation and had the opportunity to hear from some of the older community participants on how the workshops had benefited them. 

The event also featured informative talks by Thames Valley Police on digital security and by local charity Aspire on its campaign to address digital poverty and providing access to refurbished devices. 

Participants Di Shaw and Trudi Harper-Smith have benefited from learning how to download apps and have now been able to navigate the Oxford bus services better by using the app on their mobile device. Di has also learned how to text which made communicating with her friend who is in hospital a lot easier.

Lisa Hale, Deputy Associate Dean, Education and Student Experience at Oxford Brookes Business School said: “The digital skills workshops that are led and run by our students and volunteers are truly transformative. They are also a wonderful opportunity for our local senior community and students to interact on the Brookes Headington campus.”  

Margaret Simpson, Chair of the Over 50+ Network said: “IT is already here but if older people can’t access it and are aware of how to use the technology, they miss out on so much. Without access to information, people can become isolated and the digital skills workshops provided by Oxford Brookes make digital technology more inclusive.”

Kassim Lukwago, an MSc Management student who has been involved in the workshops, said:  “The opportunity to lead the Digital Skills workshop and work closely with fellow students has been invaluable. Not only have I been able to share my knowledge and expertise, but I've also learned from the diverse perspectives and experiences of those I've had the privilege to engage with. Building connections, fostering collaboration, and witnessing the collective growth and development of both myself and others have been the highlights of this experience. 

“Being a student volunteer has not only allowed me to give back to the community but has also enriched my own personal and professional journey. It has reinforced the importance of empathy, compassion, and service in making a positive difference in the lives of others.”

BA Business and Marketing Management student, Eve Wilson added: “It’s been a great experience socially and I have developed my confidence and communication skills from delivering presentations to students on how to use Google calendars, and the Oxford bus app.”