Using tech to tackle loneliness this Christmas

With many alone on Christmas Day, the WEA is organising activities to bring people together, says Dr Baylie Hart Clarida
23rd December 2020, 4:44pm
Dr Baylie Hart Clarida

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Using tech to tackle loneliness this Christmas

https://www.tes.com/magazine/archived/using-tech-tackle-loneliness-christmas
Tackling Loneliness At Christmas: How The Wea Is Using Online Activities To Bring People Together

Whether it's coming together to clap for carers, designing yet another quiz for friends over Zoom or desperately scrolling through tips on "how to date successfully virtually", 2020 has been a year of overcoming barriers to maintain human connection. 

For many, Christmas is defined by the time we spend with others, and despite the exceptional circumstances, the government has recognised this and introduced conditional family gatherings.

However, many people will still be alone over Christmas, and not by choice.


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On average, 4 per cent of the UK usually spends Christmas alone, but this is set to double, it was recently reported.

Isolation is particularly prevalent amongst those in the older age brackets. A few years ago, Age UK estimated that 450,000 over-65s were facing Christmas alone - but findings this year suggest it's likely to be 1.7 million.

This is not a new problem and many charities and local authorities offer great services - from local events to drop-ins. But this year, as with most aspects of our lives, things are very different and it's harder for us to come together.

Free activities on Christmas Day

With this in mind, the WEA South West team decided we needed to be part of the solution. In the same way we adapted to delivering our courses online, we needed to adapt Christmas for a Covid-19 world.

The team began putting together plans for a whole day of free activities on Christmas Day - staff and tutors have volunteered their personal time on Christmas Day and have put together a jam-packed schedule from 9am to 9.30pm for anyone to join in at any time.

From a virtual walk of the South West, festive crafts to a Christmas sing-along, there's something for everyone.

You don't have to be a student or member of the WEA or live in the South West - this is an open invitation to anyone who might like to spend Christmas with others. If you're alone this Christmas or know someone who could benefit, please do share a link to this joining page.

At the WEA our purpose is to bring education within reach. For us, education isn't about teaching to a test, but about developing skills, cultivating a growth in confidence and encouraging classroom connections.

A digital lifeline

Maintaining that connection motivated our South West team and tutors to volunteer their Christmas Day. It's also what's motivated our fundraising team to launch a Digital Lifeline campaign.

Technology has helped us see and speak to our loved ones when the world no longer seemed a safe place, but this isn't the case for everyone.  

Digital exclusion is the UK's silent emergency. Thousands of people still lack the basic skills and confidence to operate a computer, restricting their access to opportunities that the rest of us take for granted.

It exacerbates loneliness and prevents people from entering employment, as so much of modern life depends on having an internet connection.

These are just two of the campaigns we're running to keep people connected, both now and in the future. You can find out more about the work we do by visiting the WEA website.

From all of us at the WEA, we wish you a wonderful Christmas and a happy new year.

Dr Baylie Hart Clarida is a senior area education manager at the WEA, the UK's largest voluntary sector provider of adult education 

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