Many members of Lesbury Lunch Club, organised by Age UK Northumberland, are in the 85-95 age group and live alone.
Lesbury Village Hall committee had concerns about how to keep them connected while they were shielding at home.
Committee member Jean Humphrys explains: “We contacted them by phone and suggested that we might try to organise a Zoom lunch. Seven people were keen to try this out, but only three of the seven had access to the internet. All three had tablets and could email. The other four had nothing and had never tried to use technology of this sort.
"Community Action Northumberland (CAN) came to the rescue and secured funds to provide tablets and ‘dongles’ for our new users.
"We managed to hold one ‘training’ event in the village hall before the second lockdown and were able to test out the equipment. It was a bit chaotic, but well worth doing. We learned what support was needed and we were able to see the main challenges ahead.”
Cooks and volunteers made and distributed food with soup and scones which could be heated up easily chosen for the first virtual get together.
“I think it took about 15 minutes to get everyone on Zoom first time,” said Jean. “Everyone laughed at their tentative steps towards mastering the technology. Pictures came and went, images turned round and round and the mute, unmute button was well used, but we managed to keep going for 40 minutes.
“Before we tried out next session the advanced group, those with their own tablets, ‘met virtually’ and one person learned how to host a meeting which went reasonably well.
“When the next lunch time came everyone was a bit more confident and found time to catch up with personal news instead of concentrating on keeping going with Zoom.
Further meetings saw more progress and its members are now eagerly looking forward to more in the new year before they can get back together ‘for real’.