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Publication Date: 19/09/2017 

Community connections forged via the magic of the silver screen  

Cutting edge technology inspires traditional revival  


"Video links are allowing the strong sense of community that already exists within our care homes to flourish, expand and interconnect." 

People in their golden years are revelling in the magic of the silver screen - as it forges vibrant, virtual communities across Lanarkshire.

The latest video conferencing technology is being used as part of an initiative at some local authority and independent care homes across the area with residents linking in with each other for online get-togethers, ranging from sing-alongs to group exercise.

The work is paving the way for virtual clinical consultations and support between residents and services like Dietetics, Pharmacy, Out-of-hours and Community Mental Health teams.

Yet for most, who grew up without television, the cutting edge developments are bringing a sense of togetherness and fun into their lives – reminiscent of simpler times.

Ian MacFarlane (74), a resident of Kirkton House Care Home in Blantyre said: “I come from a generation where families would gather round in living rooms for a chat and perhaps a song before television was so accessible.

“The widespread availability of TVs has often being blamed over the years for the loss of that golden age.

“But that all seems to have come full circle - it’s the screen that’s bringing folk back together again. It’s just magnificent!”

Eight care homes across North and South Lanarkshire were linked up recently for a group sing-along and chair-based exercises, led by a fitness expert from South Lanarkshire Leisure and Culture. The live activity link was broadcast on big screens or tablets.

The group session involving 93 residents, 33 staff members and one relative follows on from other similar live links - and has further whet the appetite of residents.

I enjoy being in Kirkton as there is a sense of community here,” added Ian. “But being connected  to each other and seeing other folk in a similar setting is great. It’s reaffirming in a way and we feel part of a wider network thanks to the screens.

“There’s some great banter developing between homes and there’s even a chap in this home who plays the mouthorgan. He ‘duels’ and plays along with a resident from another home – all via the video link. It’s great to see.”

Betty Grenfell, also a resident of Kirkton explained: “Recently we’ve been singing I belong to Glasgow and Flower of Scotland along with other homes.  It’s really exciting when we link up.”

The programme is led by NHS Lanarkshire’s Telehealth team in conjunction with a variety of partners including Technology Enable Care, South and North Lanarkshire Health and Social Care Partnerships and Scottish Care.

Morag Hearty, NHS Lanarkshire’s Telehealth Manager, explained: “The initiative is at its early stages but the results we’re seeing now bode extremely well.

“As well as staff training and inter-home communications one of the wider aims is to really establish the links between homes and clinical supports. From some of the work we’ve carried out so far, as with other established areas of Telehealth, we know benefits include ease of accessibility and helping residents maintain their own independence without having to leave their homely setting for routines checks, where safe and appropriate.

Morag added: “The value of the other activities should not be underestimated, however. By linking up the care homes and creating these wider, virtual communities the technology is allowing people to remain connected and even forge new relationships.

“The technology has caught the residents’ imaginations and underlined the vibrancy of the care home community - and that’s heartening to see.”

Video conferencing building communities

The initiative is taking root as South Lanarkshire Health and Social Care Partnership embark on a programme of Building and Celebrating Communities (BCC).
BCC is a focussed on empowering and helping, where necessary, communities build on their strengths, create connections and interdependencies.

Val de Souza, Director of Health and Social Care of SLH&SCP, explained video conferencing provides a  vibrant example of that sentiment.

The ground breaking work being carried out via Telehealth and in South Lanarkshire’s eight care homes bodes well for the future of care and support.

“But this work is clearly paying dividends here and now –allowing the strong sense of community that already exists within our care homes to flourish, expand and interconnect.

“This also clearly demonstrates our commitment to ensuring that the care we provide is not only woven into the very fabric of community life, wherever possible, but also enables that very sense of connection and community to grow in its own terms and pace."