A LOCAL woman has been one of the driving forces behind a new website offering peer support for people with arthritis in Scotland.
In her role as director of charity, Arthritis Care in Scotland, Angela Donaldson has helped drive the project forward to set up the Connect Scotland site creating an online hub for arthritis sufferers, which has received funding and support from the Scottish Government.
Angela, who was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis 28 years ago, explained how the project came about:
“Some of the ideas have come from my own personal experience, having lived with arthritis for 28 years, and some from working with people with arthritis.
“The Arthritis Care organisation is 65 years old this year, but we are having to change with the times.
“The internet is not for everyone - I have a love hate relationship with it - but the technology is not going to go away and I think we need to try and embrace it.
“The website is user generated, which is a critical point, and what it’s all about, sharing experiences of living with arthritis.
“In eight years doing this job I’ve discovered we learn as we go and we learn from each other now that new developments and treatments are being made all the time.
“The quality of life people with arthritis were expected to have 30 years ago is now different.
“This hub will allow us to learn from each other and move forward together.
Quality of life
“The technology is really scary for a lot of our membership - it’s something they are not ready to embrace yet.
‘‘But for those who are it can enhance the quality of life and it’s good for us to get in touch with young people who have arthritis.
“The internet is something this generation uses every day.”
The website aims to allow people of all ages whose lives are affected by the condition to join together as an online community to share valuable resources, experiences and coping strategies through blogs, forums, news and links.
“The next challenge is really the promotion and development of the site and reaching people who wouldn’t even contemplate going on the internet,” says Angela, who grew up in Fife and recently moved back to Kirkcaldy.
“We are trying to build up a community of users who are contributing to the site’s content themselves by sharing their experiences and supporting each other.
“We’re hoping people will come on board and see for themselves and get involved.
“That’s the key. It’s a hub and the starting point for many.
“Connect Scotland is user managed and content produced by users.
“The web editor is a volunteer who has arthritis and we have moderators who are also volunteers.
“It’s about using people’s skills and helping them build their confidence and there are many more opportunities for people like these.”
With the website now live, having been launched by Nicola Sturgeon, Scotland’s Health Secretary towards the end of last year, Angela remains confident users are their own best resources and will be continuing to develop the site.
She said: “One thing I’ve learned from my own experiences is you learn as you go.
“Arthritis affects people individually in different ways and what works for you doesn’t necessarily work for someone else.
“Some of the best lessons I have learned are from other people who have found ways to manage the condition.
“For me we’re our own best resource and it’s about facilitating that exchange, that’s what this website is all about.”