Older veterans’ adventures online

Age Scotland Veterans’ Project is proud to support Lothian Veterans Centre in establishing a computer club in Dalkeith for older veterans.  Our new video tells the club’s story.

The club began this April.  Once a fortnight it convenes after the centre’s regular Friday get-together for veterans, most of whom are older and some of whom would otherwise be quite isolated.

Computer club members are kitted with free iPads courtesy of the Royal Naval Association’s Project Semaphore.  Project Semaphore tackles loneliness and isolation using digital technology.  While its home-based support is solely for older Royal Navy and Royal Marines veterans, it is open to approaches from organisations planning group-based digital-inclusion initiatives with older veterans from across the armed forces.

The Computer Club is also supported by a volunteer from AbilityNet.  AbilityNet offers free training to older and disabled people for PC’s, laptops, mobile phones and tablets, with volunteer support at arranged locations or in the home.

Age Scotland Veterans’ Project is encouraging groups and services that support older people in using digital technology to be more veteran aware.  As our best of the net for older veterans resource illustrates, learning that an older person is a veteran allows you to introduce him or her to online content that could be of great benefit – from specialist support services to money saving opportunities.  We offer free older veteran awareness training to groups and services that support older people, to help them identify veterans and ensure that they offer a veterans’ warm welcome.

Footprints Connect – Using technology to enhance independence and well-being

Guest blogger David Valentine gives us an introduction to Footprints Connect – a social enterprise set up to develop a website and associated services to assist people in the 55+ age group to use and benefit from technology.

Some older adults find understanding and making use of new technology quite a challenge. The benefits and opportunities to be gained from computers and the internet may remain remote and even threatening. But many people in the over 55 age groups are meeting these challenges and going on to improve their well-being in many different ways (socially, emotionally and financially). For those still to access the benefits of the digital revolution, Footprints Connect, through its website and tutorials is helping older adults, in Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire, rise to the challenge.

Older people on a computer

Footprints Connect grew out of the Aberdeen Silver City Surfers (previous guest bloggers), when it was felt there was a need for an online presence that would give new learners a ‘place’ to use, practice, meet and benefit from their new digital skills.

Our website has been developed to offer two main things. Firstly, to support older adults get over the initial hurdles of accessing and learning to use new technology; and secondly, to provide them with a resource that begins to let them use and benefit from their new found skills.

2 home page footprintsconnect

Both of those aims come together in our Trusted Services Directory where browsers can find a wide and growing variety of services including computing tutors, who will provide group and individual tuition in digital skills. Our Trusted Providers are businesses and organisations that have gained the respect of their customers and they have promised high standards of service for our members.  Some may also offer free extras or reduced rates for their Footprints Connect customers. As a social enterprise, our core funding comes from publishing Trusted Providers links and adverts. One of our first trusted providers was PC Inspire.

3 pcinspire home page

We have used PC Inspire ourselves to run some of our Get It On classes and home tutoring. Here we have been trying to bring computer training to people who do not make their way to the SIlver City Surfers, including people living in Aberdeenshire.

You can see from our home page screenshot, above, the various sections we have on the website. Under ‘Hobbies & Activities’ we are building up a library of connections to local groups and events that might help people stay involved with favourite or new pastimes. This is also one of several ways the website can help older, and perhaps increasingly housebound, people to stay involved with the wider community.

So, along with the other tabs for News, Communities, Helplines (for free, independent advice including free community computing sessions), Viewpoints and our social media accounts on Facebook and Twitter , we are aiming to create a wide ranging resource that will engage and inspire older adults to use new technology to make the best of their later life.

4 FC logo

Silver City Surfers – “The Internet is for everyone”

In our guest blog from Silver City Surfers, we find out about their work to get older people computer using computers and going online in Aberdeen & the North East of Scotland.

The inventor of the World Wide Web, Tim Berners-Lee, tweeted at the 2012 London Olympics, “This is for everyone.” Well, we at Silver City Surfers believe the Internet is for everyone too. We do our best to help older people in Aberdeen & the North East of Scotland to get online and gain basic computer skills. Our philosophy aims to help and support older people to use modern technologies that can be used by them to connect to their loved ones and the World Wide Web, thus combating loneliness and isolation. These new skills can help keep older people stimulated and independent in today’s digital world.


Beginning in 2005, the charity, Silver City Surfers, has moved forward teaching computing and internet skills from desktops to laptops to tablets. The core strength of The Surfers is our dedicated and talented volunteers, both hospitality and tutors. Without these special people sharing their knowledge and expertise with others in a couthy manner, so many would still be excluded from the freedom of the Internet and valuable online interactions.

Silver City Surfers run five weekly internet cafes across the city where older people can drop in and receive one-to-one tuition on whatever aspect of technology they wish. These are free sessions. Teaching is driven by the learner, at the learner’s pace. Making their visit a social affair is equally as important as teaching and so, we serve some great refreshments after their training session where they can sit round the table, natter away and make new friends. We are very lucky that our hospitality volunteers are not only sociable but incredible bakers; everyone enjoys their bakes. We can report, the Great British Bake Off is alive and well and in full swing at Silver City Surfers in Aberdeen.


Two of our weekly sessions are outreach sessions in Seaton and Northfield. It is always heartening to see how well these sessions are appreciated by the learners in these communities. Once a month we hold a very popular motivational talk at Satrosphere Science Centre in Aberdeen. The coffee and cakes are worth going for alone! Thank you Satrosphere for your generosity! These talks cover the basics on different aspects of computing and the Internet. It is a perfect introduction to technology for many older people.


Attendees are often inspired to go further with their learning, which is exactly what we want them to do. How inspiring these talks are was beautifully demonstrated by the story of one reluctant learner, Pam. Pam happened to accompany her friend to one of these talks. At the end, she asked if she could learn how to use an iPad with us. She had firmly rejected an iPad from her family, living in the States, a few months earlier, insisting that she had no need for it. Things certainly changed quickly for Pam – she went from ‘zero to hero’ on an iPad in a very short space of time and now loves it! She has entered the world of Facebook recently and still comes to us for iPad tips and tricks. We are also one year in to a very successful two-year intergenerational project wherein we facilitate technology and Internet learning between younger and older people within local primary and secondary schools.

Being a charity, fundraising is obviously very important to us, and Silver City Surfers has to strive to ensure we can support our activities. Funding comes from a variety of sources including local government organisations, individuals, and local businesses to our volunteers running a charity shop for a week every year. The majority of our funding currently comes from the Aberdeen Change Fund.

The term ‘digital inclusion’ is bandied about a lot these days and everyone at Silver City Surfers is proud that we are doing something positive about that. Berners-Lee still works hard ensuring that the web is accessible to all and so do we.

Website http://www.silvercitysurfers.co.uk
Facebook http://on.fb.me/1B9wwCg
Twitter https://twitter.com/silvercitysurf


Getting Online at 85

The 13th – 19th of October is “Get Online” week! Our Digital Communications Officer Emma Bisset visited a computer club held by Keeping in Touch Edinburgh (KiTE), to find out how the organisation is helping older people overcome their fears of technology and getting them online.

Technology has been part of my life for some time now. I’ve had to use email and the internet for work for years, and I regularly do my banking and shopping online. For many people going online is second nature, so it’s easy to forget that some older people never used a computer during their working lives. As an increasing number of services move to being more focused on their online activities, there is a fear that these people will be left behind.

That’s why organisations like KiTE are so crucial. KiTE work with older people to introduce them to the benefits and fun of being online, and work to alleviate their fear of technology. They offer a structured beginners course, 1-2-1 sessions and a more relaxed computer club. Viewpoint Housing Association provide funding for Old Farm Court Sheltered Housing to host a regular computer club, which residents can attend for free. I went to visit them recently to find out more.

Computer club members ably helped by EleanorI first spoke to a lady in her mid-eighties called May. She had never used a computer while working but is now a regular attendee of the computer club, having had a 1-2-1 session to get over her initial reservations.

She has now signed up to Facebook, which she uses to stay in touch with a friend in Ohio and share information with other older friends who are also members. “My hearing isn’t what it was and I need the telly on really loud, which probably disturbs my neighbours. I got free headphones for the telly from DeafAction which have really helped, so I put on Facebook that they did that so my friends knew as well. It’s great for letting people know your news and what’s going on.” May’s next goal is to learn how to make Christmas cards online so she can personalise and print off cards for everyone this year.

I also spoke to a gentleman called Jimmy who said the club has helped him find his way online. He goes online to plan trips down south. “I got a better deal on train tickets because I checked online so it’s good for that.”

Gina, 75 has found being online helpful for sharing things with her granddaughter. “She’s five and visited one day when it was raining. There wasn’t much to do and she was bored so we went online and watched the live camera of the panda in Edinburgh Zoo. She loved it and it’s something we can do together.”

One lady who was attending the club for the first time still had her reservations and said she found the session rather overwhelming. I noticed how the other members rallied round, reassuring her that they had felt the same on their first visit.


There is a real sense of the members being supported as they find their own way, with some members bringing their own laptops and even iPads. Some had clearly built up some confidence, only calling on KiTE volunteers if something unexpected happened, while others sat with a volunteer, being talked through a process.

People of all ages differ in how much they use technology and what they go online for. It’s great to see organisations like KiTE working to tackle the fear some older people have, and explain the benefits of the internet and digital technology to generations that are just discovering them.

One lady approached me at the end of the session to say “I always ask a lot of questions, but these volunteers are worth their weight in gold.” She chatted with the volunteers before packing up her laptop to leave, shouting as she left “Just remember, don’t get old!”001

Visit KiTE’s website to find out more about their work.


A good match

Silver Line Scotland provides a great service for older people, their friends and families, and we at Age Scotland want to make sure that as many people as possible know of its existence and how to contact the 24 hour a day service.

To do this we were looking for an interesting and eye catching way to promote the Silver Line Scotland, and, Edinburgh Napier University enabled us to do just that with it’s student placement programme. A match made in heaven for us; here Corina tells us how she found the experience.

My name is Corina Cristea and I am a passionate digital art freelancer. I enjoy working with anything from simple 2D animation, motion graphics, to complex 3D work pieces.

Corina Cristea

Corina Cristea

Every new challenge is a great opportunity to explore new areas of work, to learn and stretch my limits. As a current third year student at Edinburgh Napier University my goal for this year was to extend my knowledge of Digital Media through as many ways as possible. I was searching for projects that would give me the chance to do just this when I came across an interesting brief from Age Scotland, promoted in the university.

The project attracted me for two reasons: the first, it was an opportunity to promote a great service offered by Silver Line Scotland, and contribute to the cause, and secondly, the chance to gain experience with real life briefs.

The team at Age Scotland was wonderful to work with. From the start we went through possible ideas, analysed storyboards and constantly collaborated to ensure the end products made justice to the service. As a trial and error process it required changes and alterations which took the animations through various transitions only to improve them.

It was a great project to work on, and I feel so grateful to the team at Age Scotland for the opportunity to make these pieces of work for them. For the near future I plan to prepare for my final year of university and for the honours project and hope to work more in projects so rewarding like this one. in the long run, I hope to improve my animation skills and to make my way into the industry.

Age Scotland in Partnership with Silver Line provide Information, Friendship and Advice.

Call the Silver Line Scotland on 0800 4 70 80 90

Let’s Get Digital

Getting the internet to work for you can help make life easier, helping you stay in touch, explore your passions and even simplify and speed up daily tasks. Age Scotland helped EE organise two EE Techy Tea Party events in Glasgow and Edinburgh this year where more than 30 older people came to find out more about technology.

Glasgow group

Glasgow group

The aim of an EE Techy Tea Party is for volunteers from the digital communications company EE to spend around two hours with local people from their community. Guests bring the kit they want to learn more about and EE’s digital champions bring their know how to help them gain the skills to make the most of the technology at their fingertips.

Last year the company held 70 EE Techy Tea Parties across the UK, with 565 digital champions helping to improve the digital skills of nearly 1000 people. An impressive 89 per cent of guests told them they were more likely to use technology in the future.

Edinburgh Group

Edinburgh Group

Age Scotland guests at the events in Glasgow and Edinburgh were brimming with questions about texting, e mail set up, shopping on line, downloading apps and social media.

Catriona Blythe who attended the Glasgow Techy Tea Party said: “I’m looking forward to being be able to use Facebook through my phone more to speak to my son who is abroad.

Here, Madeleine Knowles from EE shares some tips:

  • Stay in touch

Everyone leads such busy lives, so it can be difficult to keep in touch with those you care about.

Email (electronic mail)

Set up your own email account for free at Google mail www.gmail.com or try Hotmail at www.hotmail.co.uk. You can even set up email accounts on your smartphone, so you can retrieve e mails on the move.

  • Social networking

Set up a Facebook account so you can see what your friends and family are up to. www.facebook.com or install the Twitter app on your smartphone to ‘check in’ when you are out and about.

  • Save money and time

There are lots of shopping sites on line, google the ones you like ad grab yourself a bargain. Visit www.amazon.co.uk they have everything from good books, to bedding, or make your first sale on www.ebay.co.uk .

Last minute holiday and entertainment deals can been seen at www.lastminute.com or try www.groupon.com . The Vouchercloud app sees where you are and searches out great local high street deals for you.

Compare prices on a whole range of things including insurance, travel, mobile phones and broadband at www.moneysupermarket.com.

Sort out your travel and check train times at www.nationalrail.co.uk or get discounts when you book online at www.thetrainline.com

Get out and about fuss free with the Google maps app on your smartphone or try the next bus app to find out bus times in your area.

  • Be Entertained

Do you have a favourite song that brings back memories or a TV show that you hate to miss? Watch great BBC shows on www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer

Go to www.google.com and type in what you are interested in eg football or try www.bbc.co.uk/sport for the latest news on your team. Find chat rooms full of likeminded people why not try www.sagazone.co.uk/forums

  • Stay Informed

The internet allows you to access information and news as it breaks. Check out today’s news on www.bbc.co.uk/news .

Read books on line www.isubscribe.co.uk to see magazines that you can download. Or download an audiobook www.audible.co.uk or www.waterstones.com to feast your eyes on the latest novel or old classics.

Staying safe

Technology has revolutionised our lives and there are things you can do to stay safe:

Safety first

  1. Trust your common sense: if you are not sure, don’t risk it
  2. Use anti-virus software and keep it up to date (usually annually)to stop rogue messaging and  links affecting your computer
  3. Shopping online? Check for the padlock sign. (This means the site is secure.)
  4. Never respond to emails from people you don’t know. You won’t have won money from a competition you didn’t enter and a foreign prince won’t really be desperate to share his millions with you
  5. Don’t write passwords down and don’t share them with others
  6. Use different passwords for different online accounts
  7. Your bank will never ask you for password information: an email that seems to be from your bank, yet asks to confirm your personal details will be fake
  8. Always log out if you are using a public computer or others will see your information
  9. If there might be children using your computer you can set up parental controls if children to stop them accessing content such as pornography, gambling and dating, that’s meant for adults
  10. If you’re unsure – ask a friend about reputable websites

Sharing information about yourself

We all have a digital shadow, so remember everything you do can leave a trace, use trusted websites, act responsibly and treat others with respect

For more information take a look at www.explore.ee.co.uk/digital-living or visit www.getsafeonline.org.uk

EE will be hosting ‘EE National Techy Tea Party Day’ on Tuesday 9 September in all of its stores to further tackle digital exclusion across the UK. Visit www.ee.co.uk/ttpday to find out more.

Find out more about getting online on our website.

Age Scotland’s sister charity, Age UK, produces an Internet Security guide which can be accessed online from the Age UK website at www.ageuk.org.uk or call Silver Line Scotland on 0800 4 70 80 90 to request a copy.




What does the future hold?

Third Force News (TFN) asked us to tell us their vision for the sector in 10 years’ time.  This is how our Chief Executive replied: 

By 2024 I hope those doom-mongering about our ageing population will have fallen silent, proven wrong as people increasingly live active later lives that keep them happy, well, and independent.

Brian Sloan, chief executive, Age Scotland

Brian Sloan, Chief Executive, Age Scotland

If we invest wisely in preventative services, the best examples of which are often delivered by third sector organisations, we can achieve this. However endless budget salami slicing and bureaucratic tangles could throw this ambition off-course. We also need to abolish extreme health and income inequalities, otherwise too many will find the positive lifestyle choices necessary to enjoy later life just too difficult to make.

The concept of retirement will have changed beyond recognition. Already rising state pension ages and the ending of the default retirement age are meaning more of us are working into our 70s and beyond. This will be positive if governments and employers work together to enable people to enjoy productive, stimulating and flexible later careers. Not only would incidence of low self-esteem and isolation reduce, but younger generations would better appreciate older people’s value.  However, if we don’t prepare many older people will end up stuck in jobs they can no longer do or feel they have done too long.

As more digital natives enter later life the balance of Age Scotland’s communications will shift online.  But some older people will still require, or prefer, printed formats so these won’t disappear entirely.  I look forward to more older citizen journalists emerging, able and willing to tell their stories using digital communications technology.

You can see what the other charities have to say in the series here.

Spread the news about talking newspapers

Janelle Scotland, Chair of the Association of Scottish Talking Newspapers and Lothiansound, calls for help in attracting new listeners.

borders talking newspaper

Photo courtesy of Borders Talking Newspaper

Talking newspapers record local news and distribute, free of charge, to people who cannot read print. Even the postage is free for registered blind and partially sighted people (thanks to the Post Office Articles for the Blind rules and regulations.)

There are 65 talking newspapers in Scotland. The Association of Scottish Talking Newspapers (ASTN) offers support and guidance to them and to any new groups thinking of starting up.  It organises training days, often specifically tailored to meet the needs of one group, and an annual conference attended by delegates from talking newspapers all over Scotland and associated organisations.

Despite the financial climate, funding for running or setting up talking newspapers does not seem to be difficult to find.  Perhaps this is because many of them exist in rural parts of the country where local businesses and clubs are most likely to help.

Raising awareness of talking newspapers seems to be the greatest difficulty.  Our potential listeners can’t read the notices in the library or optician’s waiting room so we have to rely on people like you to help us spread the news to others who may benefit from our service. ASTN encourages all talking newspapers to have a website.  This often attracts the attention of family and friends of blind and partially sighted people.

Last year, Lothiansound, an Edinburgh based talking newspaper, celebrated 25 years of delivering a weekly recording to hundreds of lsteners, mostly in the Lothians but as far afield as Malta. Their local MSP, Jim Eadie, secured a debate in the Scottish Parliament followed by a reception in honour of Lothiansound. Jim and three other MSPs, extolled the virtues of the talking newspaper service in Scotland and congratulated Lothiansound. If more MSPs would take an interest in their local talking newspaper, the ensuing publicity would help our cause.

Apart from a weekly CD of local news, Lothiansound has recently started to record a monthly CD of articles from the Scots Magazine. Copies of this can be request from Lothiansound on 0131 6612850 or by email to info@lothiansound.org.uk.

Email ASTN for information about talking newspapers in Scotland, whether a potential listener/recipient, or with a view to setting up, or volunteering for, a talking newspaper.

A tale of ‘The Sweater Curse’ and social knitworking

The Edinburgh Fringe Festival is over for the year but Texan, Elaine Liner takes a look back at her Edinburgh experiences and shares some of her marketing secrets.

Elaine Liner in Sweater Curse A Yarn About Love

Elaine Liner in Sweater Curse A Yarn About Love.

When I finally started telling my friends back home in Dallas, Texas, that I had written a play I’d be performing at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe this summer, they all asked: “What’s it about?”

I usually said, “It’s about knitting.” And then they’d change the subject. Pretty sure most of them thought I was delusional. Who’d want to see a play about knitting performed by a 59-year-old Texan making her acting debut in a 30-seat theatre at the biggest arts festival on the planet?

Well, it turns out lots of people did. As I head home after 32 days in Edinburgh and 25 performances of Sweater Curse: A Yarn about Love, I’m still amazed and happy that, given more than 2000 choices of shows at this year’s Fringe, so many theatergoers took a chance on mine. I had five-star reviews and full houses, including the final Sunday.

When the lights would come up at a performance and I’d see patrons knitting and crocheting in their seats, I couldn’t help but smile. That’s what I’d envisioned as I spent a year rehearsing and polishing the play.

For months before I got to Scotland, I emailed knitting clubs in and around Edinburgh, inviting them to see my play at the Fringe and reminding them to bring their knitting. I Tweeted and Facebooked, too, making contact with yarn stores, pub and cafe knitting groups, and individual crafters, especially seniors. This, more than the usual “flyering” on the Royal Mile, brought me an audience I knew would understand my show.

Elaine Liner at the Big Knit

Through her contacts Elaine found out about and joined us for a fun Big Knit event

Because Sweater Curse isn’t really a play about knitting. If you saw it — and thank you to everyone who did — you know that my message is more than just a lesson in the history of putting stitches on needles.

What I want to share with this piece is a little journey through the knotty problems of finding love. And to let people of every age know that sometimes you have to “tink back” a few times in life to learn the tough lessons. Also, that age is no barrier to living your dreams, whatever they may be.

A big reason I came to Edinburgh with this show is that I will turn 60 this November. I’ve never had a “bucket list,” but this year I did develop a “Why not?” philosophy. Write a play based on my obsessions with knitting and my history of lousy boyfriends? Why not? Take it to the Fringe as a total unknown? Why not? Raise the thousands of dollars it takes to do that? Sure, why not?

And it happened. Best of all, my tribe of women and men who love making things, who love theatre … who love — they found me. And for 60 minutes in a tiny spot above Grassmarket, our lives were knitted together.

Now the question I keep hearing is: “Will you be back at the Fringe next year?”

At this moment, I can’t think of a single reason why not.

Follow Elaine Liner on Twitter @TheSweaterPlay or on Tumblr at SweaterCurse.Tumblr.com. You can email her at SweaterCursePlay@gmail.com

Elaine also features in our Age Scotland video from the Big Knit event.

Lifting the lid on care homes

This week the Care Inspectorate issued a hard hitting report about Pentland Hill Nursing Home in Edinburgh. Age Scotland’s Doug Anthoney responded.

Playing dominos

An unannounced inspection in July, which followed a significant number of complaints within the past year about the Home, revealed a catalogue of failings.  The Care Inspectorate has issued a formal improvement notice, and intends to work with the nursing home provider, Bupa, to support them make the necessary improvements.  New admissions have meanwhile been suspended.

We’re appalled that Bupa has allowed management to crumble at Pentland Hill and that; as a result, the quality of care for older people has fallen below the minimum acceptable standard.  The Care Inspectorate is to be commended for uncovering this mess; however we believe that the public will be left wondering what penalties Bupa could, or should, incur for its failures.  The Inspectorate has the power to shut down a failing nursing home, but circumstances would have to be dire in the extreme for this to be in the best interests of residents.  So what’s the solution?  Fines would have to be substantial to focus the mind of a large care provider, and perhaps still be far less than the cost of reputational damage.  We’d be interested in views on this.

This week we were also asked to comment on new figures from the Office for National Statistics suggesting older women are often missing out on the benefits of the internet. Just over a quarter of women aged 75 and older, compared to two in every five men in the same age group, have ever been online.

There are great opportunities for older people online, we said, from keeping in touch with friends and family through Skype to saving money on home energy.  Our Itea and biscuits week in September is an example of what we are doing to help more people to take up these opportunities.  However there always be some who can’t, or prefer not to, go online and their wishes and needs should be respected.  That’s why we’re supporting the Keep me Posted campaign which calls for service providers to ensure people who still want written bills, statements and correspondence aren’t marginalised.