AN initiative is being launched to help over-55s boost their computer skills and stay connected online with friends and family.

The three-year Worth Connecting project is being introduced across the district following a successful pilot in the Worth Valley.

Big Lottery funding has been obtained to stage workshops and one-to-one home visits to encourage older people living alone to develop IT skills.

Volunteer 'digital champions' will be recruited to provide training as part of the scheme, being led by Carers' Resource.

Two participants in the pilot venture have praised the initiative.

Keighley man Roy Williams supported groups of older people to learn basic IT and use e-mail, Facebook and Skype.

"Worth Connecting is an exciting project which not only gives people new skills but also helps them to make friendships and stay in touch with other," said Mr Williams, 61.

"As a volunteer it also gave me new skills in learning how to teach, and I got to know a lot of people – I still say hello to them when I see them out and about.

"Within six weeks, people could use Skype and other tools. It was great to see them going from knowing nothing about computers to being able to use them to stay connected."

He said the volunteering aspect could also boost a person's CV.

"It's an invaluable experience for people who may be looking for employment as you can show you've worked with people of different age groups and from different backgrounds – and it shows you are adaptable in what you can offer," he added.

Great-grandmother Doreen Longden, from Haworth, didn't even know how to switch on a computer when she attended her first Worth Connecting session.

But the 80-year-old former textile worker now communicates daily with family in other parts of the country after learning how to Skype and use Facebook.

"I have family in Reeth in the Yorkshire Dales and it's lovely being able to keep in touch with them," she said.

"I can share photos and videos of the great-grandchildren, who live in Haworth, on Facebook and speak to family and see them on Skype."

When she began the sessions, Mrs Longden was loaned a tablet computer by the Worth Connecting team.

"I was really nervous but gradually got the hang of it," she said.

Chris Whiley, Carers' Resource chief executive officer, said the project offered many benefits to people living alone.

"They can keep in touch with others, meet new people through the training and become better connected with society as they can access a wide range of information and support online," she added.

"We know that a third of people aged 65 and over in Bradford district live alone and this in itself can affect people's mental health and have a big impact on their wellbeing, regardless of whether they live in rural or densely-populated inner-city areas.

"Carers especially can be isolated due to the nature of their all-consuming role, and taking part in this project could be extremely beneficial for their own health as well as the person they look after."

The official launch of the scheme takes place on Wednesday (July 19).

For more details, contact Saiuqa Raney on or 01274 449660.