One of the biggest impacts of Covid 19 and lockdown was on the older generation. People who had been active mingling with their peers at social or community events were suddenly thrown into pure isolation. Rapid changes were forced on people and technologies new to many sprang up and became something we all had to learn quickly how to use to stay connected.

Meeting ID, waiting room, is the camera on or off, click to leave the meeting…. this felt bewildering even for the tech-savvy amongst us.

Generation Exchange, a local charity based in Haringey and Enfield, was set up in 2016 to bring together older and younger people offering supportive intergenerational activities, with older people helping children with reading and maths and secondary pupils teaching older people how to use digital devices. As the activities would normally be held in schools they quickly identified that they would need to refocus their support for older people quickly and applied for a grant from Haringey Giving.

Generation Exchange photo

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We spoke to Leonie Eisenberg, IT Exchange Co-ordinator and Claire Frost, Generation Exchange Co-ordinator - who set up Generation Exchange

Hi Leonie, what was your focus before Covid19?

Many children and young people are disadvantaged and benefit from some extra help to make the best of their lives - and many older people have the time, skills and energy to help them. Before lockdown, we were training and supporting our older volunteers to make a difference to young people across 32 local schools and children’s centres by offering supported placements in local educational settings - mainly reading, writing, and maths support.  For our young volunteers on our IT Exchange programmes from schools in Haringey and Enfield, we trained and supported them to provide 1:1 tailor-made computer coaching to older people from the local community.

Generation Exchange Christmas Activity 2019

So how has Generation Exchange had to adapt?

By the beginning of March we let everyone know it was too risky for them to go into school either to help children read in primary schools or to learn how to use a digital device in secondary schools. We began to worry that the work of the charity would have to come to an end. 

So, we decided to focus on the immediate and pressing needs of older people by providing telephone befriending support, helping them get online, connecting them to local communities online and sourcing digital devices for those isolating at home and who don't have either a device or broadband. 

We also adapted our work supporting children and young people by fundraising for Woodside's Food Bank and providing books for primary and secondary children to read whilst they are at home, which are delivered with food parcels.

How was your experience applying for a grant from Haringey Giving?

The £1,340 grant was used immediately to buy laptops and tablets for people who really needed them.    

Z, aged 71, received a tablet from Generation Exchange

“I am so grateful to you for arranging an iPad for me. I am thoroughly enjoying it. I did not have a clue about this device and was very hesitant to even turn it on. But with your kind help and guidance you went through it so calmly, guiding me every step of it. I like weekly quizzes and exercises. Not forgetting Zoom practice! Big thank you.”

So Claire, what’s next for Generation Exchange?

There’s still a great need for people who need this IT support in Haringey.  We’ve received more money from the London Community Response Fund. We will be working with Groundwork Silver Active, Homes for Haringey, together with Mayor Sheila Peacock and the Tottenham Pensioners Group so that we can reach those people in need of our help too. 

When we can go back into schools, we would love to continue our intergenerational work.

Are you over 60 years+ and need help getting online or getting a device? Or, for further information please call: Claire on 07484 182087.
Generation Exchange logo

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Haringey Giving wants to keep supporting more local community projects like this that tackle isolation and build skills in Haringey. With your help we can fund more projects and support Haringey’s most vulnerable people.

Donate here