England football hero shares skills off the pitch helping older people improve skills online

  • New research from BT reveals that 71% of older people say sharing videos and pictures with family helps tackle isolation but only 17% actually do this regularly
  • Research comes as BT customer service advisor Ricky teams up with football legend Sir Geoff Hurst to make lifelong fan’s dream come true whilst teaching him a  new digital skill
  • BT has pledged to equip 25 million people with new digital skills by 2026, including the older generation

Monday 26th September 2022 New research from BT reveals more than nearly half1 of over 70s don’t feel fully confident using their mobile phones beyond simple calls. Despite this, almost three quarters believe phones improve connections with their family and friends

The research also shows nearly three quarters of older people using their mobile device to connect with important services like doctors say it has improved their independence. Lifelong learning is key as 80% of over-65s want to be even more proficient when it comes to the digital world and 60% want to learn a new skill, according to the research.

To help improve digital skills for older people BT has teamed up with football legend Sir Geoff Hurst and building on the connections made through its Care Home Companions scheme. Born out of a project set-up by a group of BT employees in 2020 to help tackle loneliness in the UK, Care Home Companions sees customer service advisors using their personal  and local communication skills to chat with residents who might not have anyone else to talk to on a regular basis.

Care Home resident Bill suffered isolation and loneliness during lockdown and was paired with Ricky through the scheme. With the help of Sir Geoff, Ricky has made Bill’s, a lifelong football fan’s dream come true, by recreating the most famous goal in England’s history whilst teaching him a digital skill.

Sir Geoff, 80, helped footie fan Bill Oliphant, 72, commentate his hat-trick goal from the 1966 World Cup Final, with the famous line “They think it’s all over… it is now”. Ricky and Sir Geoff guided Bill to share the moment through a video call with friends at his care home.

Ricky and Bill first struck up a friendship in 2020 and continued having weekly phone calls ever since. The pair forged a bond over their love of football and Bill’s passion for commentating.

BT and EE contact centre teams take great pride in their unique role of connecting people. The employee-led initiative, Care Home Companions gives back to local communities and continues to support the most vulnerable.

BT’s digital skills programme teaches vital digital skills, so everyone can benefit from staying connected, such as making video calls and sending texts. BT have committed to reach 25 million people with help to make the most of life in the digital world by 2026 and have so far upskilled 14.7 million people.

Sir Geoff Hurst said: “What BT are doing to get older people to connect with technology is fantastic.

“At my age, I meet a lot of people who are on their own and suffer with loneliness. I am fortunate that I’m in regular contact with my immediate family including a WhatsApp group called ‘Family Bants’.

“But there are people such as Bill who have very little family around them or at all so it’s a great thing to connect them - through technology - so they can speak to their mates or people they have lost contact with years ago.”

Bill, from Ashington, Northumberland, said: “Meeting Sir Geoff was a dream come true - I’m a huge football fan and being able to commentate ‘that’ moment was incredible. Even more so because we were able to share it with my friend too.

“I don’t get many visitors at the home anyway and when Covid hit, the number dropped to almost none.

“I did feel really lonely and one of the few people I spoke to regularly was Ricky - we bonded over our love of football - and he’s really given me the confidence to try out new technology that makes things easier for me.

“I’m not very good on electronics so I’m very grateful to Ricky for teaching me, every bit of advice I get is really appreciated.”

Ricky, Customer Care Advisor at BT said: “This scheme really resonated with me because my Nana and Grandad live in a rural area and don't have people around them. Luckily, just before COVID I taught them how to make video calls, and upgraded my Grandad to a smartphone and taught him how to use it.

“But I’ve seen first-hand what difference that makes to them just to see each other face-to-face. So, I thought it would be nice to do that with someone else as well.  

"When I was introduced to Bill, we quickly bonded over Newcastle United, and I learnt that he's a huge supporter. Bill told me all about when he was younger, that he used to go to all the games - he still commentates over old football games with me. And he is actually a really good commentator, and it's great to listen to.”

Tania Caporaso, BT’s Director of Customer Care, said: “Personal connections are at the heart of everything we do, whether that’s helping families and friends stay in touch by phone, emails, texts or the small interactions our advisors make with customers everyday as we help solve their issues.

“So, when our customer service advisors suggested using their professional skills and to volunteer to help lonely care home residents back in 2020 – I couldn’t think of a better way to help older people in our local communities.

“This wonderful moment between Ricky and Bill shows what a big impact a weekly call can have and seeing them meet for the first time shows the power of that connection. Starting with a simple phone call Ricky is now helping Bill to learn new digital skills to stay connected in different ways.”


Notes to editors

*Survey of 2,001 UK consumers aged 50 and above carried out in March and April 2022 by Sapio Research, on behalf of EE.

About Care Home Companions

In line with BT’s mission to Connect for Good, Care Home Companions was born out of an existing project set-up by a group of BT employees in 2020 to help tackle loneliness in the UK. BT, EE and Plusnet contact centre colleagues volunteer to regularly chat with care home residents to keep them company - volunteers work with the care home managers to find a companion with similar interests and find a suitable time to help get the budding friendships off to the best start.

The scheme’s launch was hugely successful, with around 140 volunteers making over 1600 calls to care homes in the North East during 2020, so in 2021 it was expanded to over 300 care homes nationwide with their partner HC-One.

BT colleagues use their personable and local communication skills they’ve learnt as customer service advisors to chat with residents who might not have anyone else to talk to on a regular basis.


About EE

EE runs the UK's biggest and fastest mobile network, offering superfast connections in more places than any other operator. EE brought the first 4G network to the UK in October 2012, and launched the UK’s first 5G network in May 2019.

EE has received extensive independent recognition, including being named the UK’s no.1 5G network by RootMetrics® in 2020 and 2021, and the UK’s best network by RootMetrics® every year since 2014, as well as being named Network of the Year at the 2022 Mobile Industry Awards.

As well as delivering mobile services to consumers, small and medium businesses, corporate customers and Government programmes, EE also provides home and business broadband using both 4G and fixed line connections.

EE is committed to being number one for service in the industry, and has nearly 600 shops across the UK. EE remains the only mobile provider to answer 100% of customer calls in the UK and Ireland and was recognised as the UK’s Best Large Contact Centre by the UK Customer Experience Awards 2018 and Welsh Contact Centre Awards 2019. EE was awarded The Sunday Times’ Best 100 Companies to Work for in 2018 and 2019, as well as being named Best Employer 2018 by the European Contact Centre & Customer Service awards.

EE is part of BT’s Consumer business unit which provides products and services to all of BT’s consumer customers in the UK.

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1 41% of over 70s asked in Survey of 2,001 UK consumers aged 50 and above carried out in March and April 2022 by Sapio Research, on behalf of EE.

About BT

BT Group is the UK’s leading provider of fixed and mobile telecommunications and related secure digital products, solutions and services. We also provide managed telecommunications, security and network and IT infrastructure services to customers across 180 countries.

BT Group consists of four customer-facing units: Consumer serves individuals and families in the UK; Enterprise and Global are our UK and international business-focused units respectively; Openreach is an independently governed, wholly owned subsidiary, which wholesales fixed access infrastructure services to its customers - over 650 communication providers across the UK.

British Telecommunications plc is a wholly-owned subsidiary of BT Group plc and encompasses virtually all businesses and assets of the BT Group. BT Group plc is listed on the London Stock Exchange.

For more information, visit www.bt.com/about