Skip to content
Leeds Older People’s Forum
← Back to all posts
April 16, 2020

Fun on the phone! Keeping people engaged and in touch

One of our Ageing Better partners – based in Hackney – is engaged, as you all are, in trying to keep all those people you so carefully re-connected in touch with their local communities. They turned to the telephone, not only for one-to-one befriending, but also for keeping groups together. I wanted to share some suggestions and a few ideas to start you off.

Many of us in our work lives reached for face-to-face digital communication, such as Zoom, Teams or one of the myriad others. We didn’t reach for the teleconference, for a number of reasons I suspect, but one was probably the 10-digit number you need when you call in, and also navigating automated prompts.

Well some of the other Ageing Better programmes have recommended the Phone Co-op to us. They provide hosted conference calls at a charge per minute, which means they call the participants and bring them into the call for you, making it very easy for those a little uncertain about technology to join in.

So what does your group do once it’s on the phone? Our colleagues in Hackney have suggested several ideas.

Telephone book groups

You could run book groups, either finding and circulating the same book, or listening to audio versions. These can be borrowed from Leeds City Council’s BorrowBox , or did you know that if anyone in your group is print disabled they can join Calibre Audio and borrow audiobooks for a small annual membership fee.


If you can’t get the same book to everyone and you are a confident reader, you could read some poems aloud to the group, or a short piece of prose, and then have a discussion. If you are not sure what to choose, and someone has access to the internet, then try hunting by theme. For me, asking about spring poems threw up some lovely classics from Pan Macmillan. They can even send you a poem every Friday, if you like. I was also able to easily find collections of poems about gardening, cats, autumn, funny poems, and even engineering, from all sorts of publishers and different blogs, with no skill required. So maybe someone might suggest a subject and you could try a few. I also found some impressively bad poetry, so do be careful!

Pub quizzes

You could have small teams to answer the questions and then get together in a larger call for the answers. Do you have someone who could set some questions (no cheating, mind), on paper or via the internet. The Metro recommended some sites to help you create quizzes, including a free one called Instant Quizzes, and I imagine there are a lot of them out there.

TV reviewers club

Maybe the groups would like to choose a film or progrmmae to watch each week, then get together to discuss it? No-one says it must be highbrow: best cookery show, do you prefer the new or old versions of Open All Hours? Michaels Portillo or Palin? Maybe set it up by choosing the first subject and then encourage members to make decisions. People fed up with TV might like inspiration from each other, and choose something new to watch – and if members have smart TVs and can access catch up services, they could have a lot of fun in the archives.

Thanks for some great ideas from Connect Hackney! Please let me know your own winning ideas for fun on the phone!

Jessica Duffy
Time to Shine Learning Facilitator