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‘Vulnerable people should feel connected’: Former Aberdeen students launch online social club to battle Christmas isolation

Co-founders David Steyn and Andrew Fyfe.
Co-founders David Steyn and Andrew Fyfe.

An online social club has been launched by two former Aberdeen University students in an effort to help elderly Scots stave off loneliness this Christmas.

Andrew Fyfe, founder of Sovereign Assist, said his company wants to combat the feeling of isolation many older people experience in the lead up to the festive period and connect them with others in the same situation.

The 32-year old formulated the idea with co-founder David Steyn while the two were at university in the Granite City.

Mr Fyfe also currently sits on a Scottish Government cross-party group that focusses on helping the Scottish Parliament address the challenges of an ageing population.

The new and free social club will also teach technology associated skills, while ensuring participants can engage with others safely during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Mr Fyfe said: “We want give people who are vulnerable and isolated somewhere to connect with other human beings once-a-week in the run up to Christmas.

“Beyond that, what we really want to achieve as a long-term goal is to actually have places in Scotland where we can run workshops and have people meeting face-to-face as opposed to online – it’s far and away the best form of interaction.

“But I also think it’s really important to encourage digital connectivity and anything that can be done to make that easier for older people, who perhaps struggle with technology, is a plus.

“If we can do that by getting people online then that’s all we want to achieve at this stage.”

Mr Fyfe is due to publish research on senior housing in Scotland in partnership with the University of Aberdeen and the Elderly Accommodation Counsel.

He and Mr Steyn, who are both from Aberdeen, decided to launch the social club after surveying over 100 older people during his six-months of research.

Elderly charity Age UK also puts the current figure of those experiencing loneliness and isolation at 1.4 million.

Sovereign Assist, which is based in Edinburgh, is currently looking to meet with care home bosses to include as many people as possible in its December 2 launch.

Mr Fyfe said: “Loneliness is subjective and just because you’re in a care home surrounded by loads of people doesn’t mean you’re not still going to feel lonely – we want to target those kind of people to connect them.

“I sadly don’t have any remaining grandparents of my own, but I’ve heard from friends and colleagues how much impact forced isolation has had on theirs.

“The statistics from Age UK are telling and I want to help older, vulnerable people feel more connected.

Iain Couper, manager of Ace IT, a charity which helps older people learn computer skills, said: “2020 has highlighted that now more than ever, access to the internet is a basic human need.

“Digital exclusion is damaging, particularly to both older and vulnerable people.

“By empowering our learners to access services including video calling, online shopping and access to online medical services, we hope to help them live with more independence, reduced isolation and help them better connect with their communities.

“We are delighted to work with Sovereign Assist on an initiative that will connect older people in the run up to Christmas.”

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