There are many research reports, lots of great examples of the use of digital technologies to support people later in life, and plenty of ideas for development. But you can only find them if you know where to look. We came upon relatively few ways in which people in the field were systematically sharing experience outside London-based events.
For anyone themselves trying to adopt digital technology later in life - or help someone else - there is little relevant help, unless they can attend a course or other session, and that may not offer follow-through support. Guides and toolkits may not be updated after initial time-limited funding.
This means that research continues to confirm earlier findings and conclusions; projects re-invent the wheel; funders dont know where to focus, and technology users and helpers are baffled. Some of this is important in development phases: research confirming, and giving greater validity to earlier conclusions; locally owned and delivered projects seemingly re-invent from a national scale, but are built on local ownership and enthusiasm. However this is not the only process for creating disciplined innovation.
Innovation can arise from joining up as well as inventing, which suggests we need convening for collaboration, as well as competition for challenge funding. The Nominet Trust and other agencies run networking events, and there is scope to build on that activity.
The main recommendation in the Nominet Trust paper by Shirley Ayres Can online innovations enhance social care? is for a knowledge hub:
We followed up with a blog post linking this to the idea of developing social ecologies of conversations and connections, promoted by Steve Dale, one of the dtlater team.
The Age Action Alliance digital inclusion group (AAA DIG) is now mapping the activities and resources of their members, and recommending members to join the discussion we are running on the Social Learning Network. Well be exploring the idea of a knowledge hub in more detail there.
The diversity of application and value of digital technology in later life, reflected in our provocations and the related references, highlights how wide-ranging activity and interests are in this field.