Screen fatigue? Let’s get personal

As we leave behind the social distancing rules imposed by the pandemic, Helen Guest notes a definite feeling of screen fatigue as people are eager to meet up in real life again.

All together now: Pro-Active Community members enjoy meeting up in person again.

I work for the award-winning Pro-Active Community (PAC), a charity for vulnerable adults. While it was registered in 2020, it was established before then with the support of Active Prospects, another award-winning charity, which provides support and housing for vulnerable adults and is based in Surrey.

While social media and of course Zoom have played such a major part in enabling people to remain connected over the past two years, the challenge is now on to ensure the “screen fatigue” that is setting in doesn’t hijack that important link.

For adults with a physical or learning disability, autism, acquired brain injury or mental health needs, remaining connected during the pandemic was more critical than ever before. The fear of isolation and, for many, the difficulty of overcoming loneliness, have been very real.

The necessity to provide social interaction in a safe and supported space has always been a priority for the PAC – a lively and determined group of supported people who want to make a difference, but for them, by them – not what others think is needed but what they truly want.

Phyllis said she has never played bowling before and she has thoroughly enjoyed herself and even won the first game // Service manager – Woodview, Caterham

From campaigning at local and government levels about disability rights to hosting fundraising Bake Off events and highlighting climate change, everyone has in common a drive for equity while enjoying the accessible and inclusive nature in which it is organised.

I am co-chair of the Pro-Active Community, I manage the Facebook page and I miss being face to face, I like seeing people I haven’t seen for ages, and all your friends.  It’s nice to all get together to be part of a group again since the last lockdown in 2020. It is fantastic, means a very lot to me, I can say my voice and we can work in a team to organise some activities and things what we do all together. It makes me feel positive and I feel proud actually that I am the co-chair. // Matthew Leadbeater

The opportunity to be back together in person is ever closer. The PAC has a subgroup, the Surrey People’s Group, made up of people across the county who meet once a month; this is facilitated in partnership with Surrey County Council.

The groups where we meet up mean I’m not lonely, which I am if I can’t be in the groups. // Leah Hickson

The group have maintained their meetings via Zoom, continuing the connection through the pandemic, and have included guest speakers on subjects such as adult safeguarding, online/cybersecurity, safe banking and money management through to mental health and wellbeing.

Meeting at the hall every month, it was really good to see everyone and talk about things, and have coffee and biscuits. I liked hearing new people talk to us about different things like the environment and climate change. I miss being together but Zoom meetings mean I still see people and don’t feel so alone. // Michael McLachlan

The PAC had arranged for a 100-guest gathering to celebrate Christmas which, sadly, had to be postponed due to Covid. The disappointment proved how much everyone was looking forward to being together and to seeing people they had not been able to for most of the year.

However, trips to the bowling alley in smaller groups were possible. The level of enjoyment and the feedback from the people who took part demonstrated very clearly the benefits of meeting face to face.

I like being part of the Pro-Active Community, I was the chair last two years, I like the friends and seeing everyone, I miss seeing everyone together. It’s alright on Zoom, support staff can help me, or I can do it, it’s better face to face, I like together. I was down and depressed in lockdown and wanted to see people, so the groups were good to do activities, making things, going to the theatre and Wakehurst Gardens. It gave me confidence talking in front of people and on stage sometimes in big audiences, I like public speaking as well. At the Learning Disability England Conference I signed and talked to everyone on Zoom. // Elizabeth Wheeler

Everyone is welcome to join Pro-Active Community meetings at / /

Helen Guest is the active living manager at Active Prospects and  Pro-Active Community facilitator.