Brisbane Seniors Online (BSOL)
BSOL, a not-for-profit, based in Brisbane, Australia, offers one-to-one computer training in the learners own home for those aged 50+. For a relatively small joining fee (£10) and then an annual fee (£20), the learner has 10-12 visits from a mentor who supports them to become more familiar and confident with using their own device. Founded in 1998, BSOL is entirely volunteer led and has an office in the city, subsidised by Brisbane City Council. It has over 900 members, with an average age of 75, who are supported by 250 volunteers. Requests for digital learning support are processed in the office and then allocated to a volunteer co-ordinator in one of 8 ‘hubs’ across the city who then ‘match’ a mentor with the learner in their local area. Requests for support come from those signposted by other digital learning providers such as the library, in addition to direct requests. Additional volunteers run the office, manage the database that is used to pair mentors with learners, and produce the newsletter.
Speaking with some of the mentors and hearing about their visits to learners’ homes and the IT skills support they provide, I quickly understood that BSOL offers much more than digital skills development. They provide older people with friendship and social contact.