Increasing awareness of what’s possible in elderly care

“The Slack team has been incredibly supportive, available, and go above and beyond for us. We have loads of ideas and I see our usage growing over the next few years.”

Gavin ReidChief Executive, Sue Ryder

Despite the world being more connected than ever, loneliness is becoming a serious problem, especially among the elderly, who tend to suffer a lot from social isolation. According to Trinity College Dublin, almost one third of adults over the age of 50 in Ireland experience emotional loneliness. And very few organizations know as much about caring for the elderly and offering them much-needed support as Sue Ryder Ireland.

Sue Ryder Ireland is a charitable organization which provides exceptional housing and support for elderly residents across its six schemes in Ballyroan, Kilminchy, Dalkey, Holycross, Carlow, and Nenagh. With a total of 284 units and a mixture of one and two bed bungalows and apartments, Sue Ryder Ireland takes pride in enabling people to age gracefully with the necessary support, ultimately delaying the need for nursing home care. Its commitment to quality living and comprehensive care is what sets it apart.

However, Sue Ryder was struggling with communication at its various retirement villages and communities as well as between its 26 charity shops. These shops play a vital role in supporting the organization’s mission by selling donated goods such as clothing, accessories, homeware, and books, with the proceeds directly funding its care services. The organization’s one hundred staff and 300 volunteers operated almost completely separately, with each group being siloed and unaware of the activities of others.

What’s more, being a small charitable body, Sue Ryder Ireland needs to be more visible to a wider audience to finance its mission. Ready for a more modern take on growing awareness, the charity began planning social media campaigns to showcase the work that it’s doing. But for that, it needed a reliable way of sharing achievements and news from each group around the country. The charity tried several communication platforms before finding its answer in Slack.

“We looked at various alternatives for a couple of years,” says Gavin Reid, Chief Executive at Sue Ryder Ireland. “We even looked at merging various file-sharing platforms, but that only invites complications. When we found Slack, we thought: ‘Wow! This really does bring our communications all together.’ We just put people in a channel. They don’t even have to understand how they got in there or how it works. It enables us to share information really easily.”

Slack’s simplicity helps Sue Ryder care teams share success stories and ideas for improvement and allows the marketing team to gather videos and images from each location for their growing campaigns. Once fully implemented across the organization, Slack will also allow shops to share information about stock, move it between various areas, and offer buyers a wider selection of goods.

“When we found Slack, we thought: ‘Wow! This really does bring our communications all together.’”

Gavin ReidChief Executive, Sue Ryder

Sharing ideas to enhance quality of life

The main priority for Sue Ryder is the wellbeing of its residents and Slack has been a phenomenal tool that contributes to this goal. Previously, when an idea or even a small improvement positively affected the physical or mental health of the charity’s elderly residents, there was no real way of sharing this information.

Currently, 53 staff members are using Slack and its impact is already visible. By sharing ideas as well as individual and collective achievements on 13 Slack channels, various groups across the country inspire and guide each other on the way to improving the lives of their residents and supporting the core Sue Ryder mission.

For example, residents in one of the residencies created a raised polytunnel and started growing their own vegetables. This effort brought them so much joy and satisfaction that it warranted sharing with other groups who, in turn, have taken note and are looking to implement similar activities. Some residences are also planning to grow vegetables, one put in a chicken coop, and residents in yet another one have brought up the idea of keeping bees and selling their own honey.

“Sharing this is one of my proudest achievements from last year,” says Reid. “It’s not about the roof over your head. It’s about curing loneliness and isolation and giving people a reason to get up in the morning. Our founder, Charles McDonald, said: ‘If we can remove hassle from people as they age, they will live longer, happier, and healthier lives.’ So, we pay the bills, do the laundry, and cook because we want to remove these worries and provide our residents with reasons to get up, get motivated, and go out into the fresh air and increase their mobility, do something fulfilling.”

Whatever the ideas for improvements may be, residents are up and active and the impact on their mental and physical wellbeing is huge. They see the results of their work and, even if they are not physically able to contribute, they take joy in simply witnessing the developments. And sharing these across the organization is helping everyone in turning small actions and ideas into big results.

Spreading the word with better planning

Reid is very optimistic and excited about the possibilities of the organization’s relationship with Slack. Bringing together all the separate groups of staff and volunteers is already underway with Slack huddles being increasingly leveraged for meetings and collaboration.

“I’m really happy about bringing our communications together in a far more streamlined way,” says Reid. “Before this we were really siloed. It was very difficult to communicate with a lot of our people. We had to bring them together in person. So, I am really loving huddles. We find it much more stable than other platforms. And the ability to share files whilst on a huddle within our Slack channels is far superior to any other platforms out there.”

The charity’s achievements and successes can now also be used to fuel the marketing engine. With the organization’s plans to ramp up its social media presence, the team can now use Slack to gather success stories, images, and videos from various groups to promote the charity and raise awareness of what Sue Ryder does every single day.

The new branding and awareness campaigns can celebrate achievements within the residences and even occasions such as someone’s 100th birthday. Using real stories and candid footage will illustrate the work that’s being done and the difference that the charity is making to people’s lives.

“We only launched our social presence two months ago,” comments Reid. “And the early campaign was more about raising awareness and donations to the shops. But when the residents’ gardens are in full bloom in the spring, we will start sharing stories and videos about that more widely. In the meantime, we have all the rebranding stuff in Canva. It’s ready to go and it’s something we will use going forward, giving all our people access to it soon.”

“It’s not about the roof over your head. It’s about curing loneliness and isolation and giving people a reason to get up in the morning.”

Gavin ReidChief Executive, Sue Ryder

Sharing information with improved searchability

Sue Ryder is only at the beginning of its Slack journey but, once the platform is rolled out to all the shops, it will help support fundraising and gain increased return on donations. Currently, the shops don’t have a way to share information about new inventory. But with Slack, when a shop receives stock that might sell for more money in affluent neighborhoods, the volunteers will be able to price the items differently and transport them to such areas. “It’s a difference between selling an evening dress for €5 and €80,” comments Reid.

This will also mean that if someone is looking for a specific object, such as a used piano, staff at any Sue Ryder shop will be able to use Slack to check if there is one available anywhere else and have it brought to their location. “Slack will allow us to communicate and plan effectively so that we can get items to the right store at the right time and achieve better return on donations,” he explains. “And Slack will help us move some of those items into online selling, too.”

Growing together

Sue Ryder will keep growing its use of Slack which, in turn, will enable the organization to keep growing. The plan is to roll out the platform throughout the charity—to all the staff and volunteers—within the year and expand its capabilities. This will include streamlining operational processes and driving efficiencies by, for example, logging volunteers’ hours in Slack and automating timesheets.

“We’re on a learning curve as to the power of Slack,” concludes Reid. “But the Slack team has been incredibly supportive, available, and going above and beyond for us. So, we have loads of ideas and I see our usage grow over the next few years.”