DOREEN Longden didn't even know how to switch a computer on when she went to her first Worth Connecting session.

Now the 80-year-old great-grandmother communicates daily with family in other parts of the country, after learning how to Skype and use Facebook.

“It’s lovely being able to keep in touch,” says Doreen, of Haworth. “I share photos and videos of the great-grandchildren and can speak to them and see them on Skype.”

When Doreen first attended the six-week beginners’ course, helping over-55s stay connected online, she almost walked out when she saw other participants with their own laptops.

“I thought maybe it wasn’t for me. But Worth Connecting lent me a tablet for the sessions, and although I was nervous I gradually got the hang of it,” says the former textile worker.

After the course Doreen got her own tablet and, as well as messaging her family, she uses it to contact dancing group friends, to keep up to date with local events, and for shopping.

“To people who've never used computers, I’d say ‘Give it a go!’ It helps me feel part of everything and it’s made keeping in touch so much easier,” she says.

Carers’ Resource, which supports carers districtwide, is the lead organisation on the three-year Worth Connecting project, tackling isolation, encouraging independence and improving wellbeing among older people.

Positive Minds, a consortium of Bradford organisations tackling depression and mental ill health, has won Big Lottery funding for home visits and workshops encouraging older people living alone to learn and develop IT skills.

Volunteer Digital Champions are being recruited to offer training, from basic use of computers to using social media and Skype.

The initiative, started last week, is delivered by Carers’ Resource, specialist community languages providers 3C, Age UK Bradford & District, and Welcome Project.

Chris Whiley, Carers’ Resource chief executive officer, says benefits include keeping in touch, meeting new people through training, and accessing information and support online.

"A third of people aged 65 and over in the district live alone, this can affect mental health and wellbeing," she said.

"Carers especially can be isolated. This project could be extremely beneficial for their own health, as well as the person they look after.”

Positive Minds Chairman Marilyn Foster said: “We carried out research into demographics of the older population in Bradford and anticipate that by 2035 there will be almost 108,000 people aged 65 and above.

"That’s a lot of people, many of whom could be socially isolated.”

Roy Williams, 61, still says ‘hello’ to people from the Worth Connecting pilot project, which he was part of for six weeks.

Roy, of Keighley, a carer for his 96-year-old father, taught groups of older people basic computer skills and how to use email, Facebook and Skype.

“As a volunteer it brought me new teaching skills and I got to know a lot of new people. It also brought people together in the sessions, they started sharing phone numbers. Within six weeks they could use Skype and other tools - it was great to see them going from knowing nothing about computers to using them to stay connected with friends and family.”

* For more about the scheme contact Saiuqa Raney on (01274) 449660 or email