Turner Contemporary | Designing and piloting online creative engagement for over 65s



Why the work is being done

For almost 10 years Turner Contemporary has delivered internationally significant exhibitions and learning programmes from its building in Margate, Kent. It has an excellent track record of delivering high quality creative activities that increase participants' learning, skills, health, wellbeing, social networks, and civic pride. 

COVID-19 has limited our ability to offer in-person activities, and many older people (over 65s) are being disproportionately excluded as offers move online. TC’s visitor data and website analytics both suggest a drop-off in the rate of participation amongst older people (65+). It is estimated this is occurring because: 1) Older people are more likely to visit the gallery & take part in activities in person 2) Older people have heightened concerns about contracting C-19 & are limiting activity 3) Older people are more likely to suffer from digital exclusion.

This project is part of the Catalyst and The National Lottery Community Fund COVID-19 Digital Response funding initiative; a partnership between The National Lottery Community Fund and CAST, supported by the Catalyst network. 

Problem to solve

From speaking to our users, it is clear that over lockdown the digital world has been offering a benefit for older users: learning. Our older users are interested in us providing free, accessible learning opportunities connecting them to art and community locally, which they can easily engage with from home. They would like to feel included in our programme and also supported. 

We would like to use this funding for further discovery and definition; to test, develop and pilot a contained opportunity to engage with our local older audience online by running a project related to our exhibitions programme.  From this project we aim to have created accessible online content and activities for this audience, and a model which can be used to engage older users online in the future.

Working with a group of users over this period, we would like to create enriching online learning content, and this could be anything from videos, quizzes and resources to live interactive activities to support meaningful engagement. We would like to identify how we can make online engagement more personable, potentially by blending remote digital activities with physical objects and materials. We plan to test if we can recruit users through more traditional means, and explore how we can build trust and support participants with navigating online opportunities.

We also need to identify the most intuitive and accessible digital platforms for older users to comfortably learn through, which present a range of ways to access content. Through this work, we aim to boost this group’s digital confidence and provide a positive online experience, improving wellbeing and reducing social isolation during covid-19 and beyond.

Turner Contemporary have allocated some funding to provide those more digitally excluded participants with access to a device/mobile internet through a loan scheme.

Who are the users and what do they need to do

The user group we have identified are older people in Thanet (approximately over 65s) who would like to be more creatively engaged and connected but are more socially isolated due to staying at home during the pandemic, and aren’t getting fulfilment from their technology. 
User needs statements:
  • As an older person staying inside during the pandemic, I need opportunities to be involved with important creative opportunities in my community so I can feel fulfilled and recognized.  
  • As an older person isolating in Thanet during Covid-19, when I want to participate in social or creative art opportunities during covid-19, I need a way to do so whilst not putting myself at risk, so that I can have creative fulfilment and social connection.
  • As an older person living in Thanet, when I am at home and want to participate in exciting creative events, I need the process to be easy and intuitive, so that I don’t give up.
  • As an older person living in Thanet, I need  simple and free ways to engage with exhibitions and events from home, so that I can increase my knowledge.
  • As a busy older person with internet connection problems, I need a way to access fulfilling online opportunities flexible to my internet connection and life commitments.  
  • As an older person with basic knowledge of digital, when I want to make use of the internet, I need someone with time and patience to support me with navigating digital problems and humanise online interaction 
 Key Outcomes/Outputs/Deliverables: 

  • To have identified through user research and prototyped a content format that is most appealing to older audiences. 
  • To have successfully piloted a short programme of accessible online engagement activities for older users, linked to Turner Contemporary’s exhibitions programme, which can be used as a model for future engagement with this user group.
  • To have created evergreen online engagement content and activities that can be accessed after the completion of the project.
  • To have engaged with and supported a small group of older local users through participation, increasing their confidence with technology, creative fulfilment and mental wellbeing.

Key project resources

Content formats Playbook
Playbook for Turner produced by Storythings (end of project output)