QT2 Goes Digital

New technology in elderly hands. 

Sheila tries a different drawing tool on the sketches app, supported by Emily.
Sheila tries a different drawing tool on the sketches app, supported by Emily.

Not much phases this group and this is a good thing! With a visit from Hounslow Council ( who are funding the project), a hands on craft activity, a 90th birthday celebration and a digital drawing session on the Sense i pads to get through. It was an active 3 hour workshop! Here are the highlights:

We had extra hands on deck. Kara, Head of Arts & Wellbeing at Sense and also Laura, from Hounslow Borough Council joined us. New faces are always welcome and extra hands even more so!

We eased into the day with a craft activity. Based on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.  We discussed our favourite stars and design our own homages them as well as creating our own hand print motifs for the quilt. Quilt Tales becomes our own walk of fame. Here is how we got on…

i pad inspiration

Access to technology is often limited for the elderly. It can be confusing and complicated, especially for those living with sensory impairment,  but when faced with a light weight, hand held tablet and someone on hand to help the group got a lot out of working with the  i pads. We used a drawing app called ‘Sketches’ to create simple drawings about favourite foods, pets and Christmasy themes.

We take it for granted now, in our busy lives of technological dependency, but when you stop to think about it, it is a bit of an abstract concept- drawing with your fingers on a screen and swiping  images away into an invisible void or spreading your fingers across a screen to zoom in on a given area. After the initial checking of finger tips to ensure there was no inky residue left after making their mark and general giggles of delight,  images were saved and a new ones started. The group soon got the hang of it and revelled in being part of something, which had at first seemed very alien. The zoom-in tool, colour changing options and brightness levels tools, meant that designs could be personalised to suit the eyesight of the individual.

‘Oh aren’t they amazing! I wish I’d had one of these when I was young.’ – Anne

‘The screen is very sensitive and it takes a bit of time to get used to it. I reckon if you had a go everyday you would become really good at it. You see the youngsters with them and they seem to do everything on them or their telephones…It was good to have someone sitting next to you to talk you through the different buttons. If I had one I could send my pictures to my grandson. ‘- Anne

‘ I love it! You can work so fast and fix your mistakes at a touch. I’ve been thinking of getting myself one for Christmas, but they are ever so expensive to buy and I don’t understand all the safety things you need for the internet. I suppose I could just use it for drawing and things. I would like to know more. I’m going to think about it.

– Sheila


Graham is undaunted by the new technology in his hands. Helped by Kara, he manages to create a digital image of his everyday surroundings, whilst Kenny gets busy creating Spirograph designs. The sturdy plastic shapes and toothed stencil frames help keep the design in place, a great help for Kenny, who is blind. Kenny chose his shapes by feeling his way around the equipment. Spirograph was a bit of a nostalgic hit with the team.

“They’re good fun but I was a bit nervous about pressing the wrong thing. I think it would take a bit of getting used to. I’d worry someone would want to steal it.” – Graham.

Our makers surprised themselves with the results. The images they created will be printed onto heat transfer paper and pressed onto the final quilt.

All this learning is rewarded with a welcome slice of carrot cake cake for Joyce’s 90th birthday.

Joyce blows out the candle on her 90th birthday cake.
Joyce blows out the candle on her 90th birthday cake

I can only describe today as extraordinary. The group were utterly unflappable and open to all new ideas presented to them. The mood was buoyant, the group supportive of one another and the willingness to try new things inspirational. The importance of the helper / maker ratio was emphasised today. Without adequate help it is just not possible to deliver the level of attention that is necessary to support elderly learners living with sensory impairment and other problems experienced in later life.

Ratings for the workshop:

Joyce 9/10 ‘ Lovely’

Kenny 11/10 ‘ really enjoyed it.’

Graham 10/10 ‘smashing my dear’

Sheila 10/10 ‘ Marvellous’

Anne 10/10 ‘Very educational. Wonderful with a cherry on the top!

Thank you to all who took part in a really uplifting workshop.




Author: Alex McEwan

Alex is an artist who specialises in inclusive and accessible community arts projects, such as Sense's TEXTtile and Quilt Tales.

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