Gransnet goes local
It is estimated that there are around 14 million grandparents in the UK – 47% of whom care for their grandchildren on a regular basis. Gransnet is a successful social networking site primarily targeted at Britain’s grandparents, but also welcoming to other older people.
The sharing of information, interests and experiences online has proved very useful and sustaining for many site users. However, one of the frequent complaints on Gransnet is that older people find it hard to make their voices heard, especially in the media and to politicians.
The site’s parent company Mumsnet has demonstrated the influence that forums can have about issues of concern in the wider community, in the media and even at a national political level. So now Gransnet is looking to develop a network of additional local community sites, which will offer offline as well as online meeting opportunities and an information exchange for advice, support services, events, interest groups and issues of concern for 80 local communities around the UK.
Reducing social isolation
Gransnet Local has the potential to offer a platform and a voice to people who currently feel disenfranchised on local issues that concern them. The sites will include local listings; user-recommended places to go and days out; learning opportunities and courses; details of meet-ups and support groups; a swap shop; local household services; information on charities and local volunteering and work opportunities; and local community forums, where users can discuss issues of concern in their areas.
The initiative will enable the national Gransnet network to reach out to other, more isolated people in local communities and extend online interactions out into greater participation in real-world local communities – helping to reduce social isolation and build the emotional and social resilience that helps people to age in better health and with a greater sense of wellbeing.
Incentive to get online
Gransnet Local will also offer a powerful incentive for older people to get online. IT literacy is known to be related to perceived usefulness, and this project is likely to prove a very useful resource for all sorts of older people. Local sites will enable users to meet each other offline and, in turn, encourage peer mentoring of others who are not yet using the web.
It is expected that older people across the UK will benefit from this project. Nominet Trust funding will be used to recruit and train local coordinators to run Gransnet Local sites, gradually building them into well-established and sustainable micro-businesses in their own right.