Mental Health Foundation fights isolation and loneliness with art, tablet devices and Zoom

People who were living in extreme isolation and loneliness are connecting with family and friends across the world thanks to a digital inclusion programme launched by the Mental Health Foundation. 

One man was able to attend his mother’s 100th birthday party in Ireland, thanks to support from the Picture This project. The project is running in Lewisham, south London, and the aim is to extend it to other parts of London and the UK.

The Foundation is giving participants a new tablet device, tailored training, ongoing support and unlimited data for three months.

Paul Scharakowski, Project Manager for Picture This, said: “Recent studies have shown there are millions of people in later life who are experiencing some form of digital exclusion. Whilst many people during the pandemic were able to order food and catch up with family and friends online, some did not have this luxury. 

“The Picture This programme is a unique concept, involving the Foundation working with people at the lower end of a digital scale. The aim is to bridge this digital gap and help older people improve their communication, their confidence and their quality of life.” 

“I spoke with family on the device, and it was as though they were in the room, it was incredible. I have also joined Facebook and connected with people who I haven’t seen in over 40 years.” – Edward (65)

“My daughter lives in Ghana and we have connected online, she is telling her neighbours she can’t believe her mother is now online and learning at the age of 90.” – Phyllis (90)

The Mental Health Foundation will be working with later life housing providers Notting Hill Genesis and Anchor Hanover, to extend the Picture This programme across various locations in London and other parts of the UK.

The 12-week programme will host multiple groups, with up to a maximum of 10 people per group. Since the rollout of the programme in Conrad Court in Lewisham, it has been received really well by all participants. 

Picture This is funded by Lloyds as part of their response to the Covid -19 pandemic.  

The course is hosted totally online. All participants get a new tablet device which they keep for good. Many start with limited or no IT skills. The Picture This team offer tailored training to help them use digital devices and the internet. 

In doing this, the Foundation has helped many people reconnect with friends and family through digital means as well as creating social media accounts and attend online events. For some, this truly has been life changing. 

Picture This uses art sessions to help people to express their creative side. Art facilitators use different topics each week to help everyone get the chance to discuss memories, points of view and emotions within a safe online environment. All participants receive a gift bag full of the art materials needed for the programme.  

The course takes place on Zoom. All participants dial in from their rooms, because Covid restrictions are still in place. 

The course focuses on creative art and drawing but the group also learn basic IT skills, such as how to send an e-mail, how to connect with family and friends remotely and attend online events, how to use Facebook and other social media channels and how to order online shopping. It has been life-changing for some.

The programme has been developed by the Foundation for later life settings. In line with the Foundation’s strategy of preventing mental health crises, the project will be externally evaluated.  It is hoped that the project extends across the UK, to reach many more isolated and digitally excluded groups of people in later life. 


Notes to editors:

For further information please contact Fran Edwards in the Mental Health Foundation press office on 07786 437249 or at [email protected]

About the Mental Health Foundation

The Mental Health Foundation is the leading charity for everyone’s mental health. With prevention at the heart of what we do, we aim to find and address the sources of mental health problems so that people and communities can thrive.  We are also the home of Mental Health Awareness Week. For more information about the Foundation visit www.mentalhealth.org.uk