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.


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.




Don’t miss the bus

This Friday, 25th October, Age Scotland’s online petition calling for action to end isolation among older people will close.  Campaigns officer Doug Anthoney reflects on the campaign’s progress and next steps.

Still Waiting campaigners

In February we launched the Still Waiting campaign; which calls for action to stop older people becoming lonely and isolated due to lack of suitable transport services.  If you haven’t already signed our online petition, please don’t miss your chance to do so before it closes.

So far we’ve succeeded in putting the transport problems faced by many older people high on the political agenda.  38 MSPs signed up in support of the campaign; more than a quarter of the Scottish Parliament, including the leaders of each opposition party.  Many of these MSPs backed our call for action during a Parliamentary debate on Still Waiting .

The campaign was also reflected on by MSPs on the Scottish Parliament’s Infrastructure and Capital Investment Committee during its inquiry into community transport services.  They agreed with us that it was unfair that older people who are unable to use regular bus services, due to disability, ill-health or geography, end up out of pocket while their peers enjoy free travel.

But we’ve not yet succeeded in convincing the Scottish Government to adjust the National Concessionary Travel scheme so that older and disabled people can use their bus passes on community transport services.  Ministers say that demand and costs could prove too great, given our ageing population.  We say that, given our ageing population, the cost of inaction is even greater as older people who become isolated from their community are more likely to suffer ill health and need residential or hospital care. 

Community transport services provide a lifeline for older people who can’t use mainstream buses, but themselves need a funding lifeline if they are to thrive and meet growing needs.  The Government is considering additional funding for community transport vehicles, which would be welcome, but won’t in itself secure the future of these services.  Including them in the National Concessionary Travel scheme offers a more sustainable, long term solution.

So please sign the petition before next Friday, and encourage your online friends to add their support.

Still Waiting campaign

More than Bingo

Age Scotland Development Officer, Laura Dunkel, recently visited Gilmerton 60+ group to award them with a cheque for an Age Scotland grant of £1938.00. 

Gilmerton 60+ Group

Gilmerton 60+ Group accept their Cheque from Laura Dunkel

The money will be used to buy equipment, such as board games, laptop, projector and an audio system, which will enhance the activities on offer for group members. This grant will also be used to pay for the food and drink at the group’s Christmas party at the local Waverley Inn.

The Gilmerton 60+ group runs on a Monday, Tuesday and Friday and consist of over 30 members who are collected from their home and brought to the group at Gilmerton Community Centre. At the group they have lunch in the company of others and enjoy a range of activities and games, such as bingo, dominoes, bowls, gentle exercise and arts and crafts.

Gilmerton 60+ group chairperson, Brian Mahon, said: ‘This grant will be invaluable help in purchase of computer equipment and in the running of our Christmas parties this year. As we rely on voluntary contributions, these grants, such as Age Scotland, are vital to improving this thriving club, which is run by care worker and administrator, Kathleen Manson and a team of volunteers.’

Laura said: ‘Its fantastic for us to be able to support the Gilmerton 60+ group. They work really hard running this wonderful group and the older people here really enjoy it. One lady told me that she looks forward to the group all week, and it’s the only time she leaves her house. Reducing social isolation amongst older people is really important to Age Scotland, and supporting local groups is a key way for us to do this.’

If you have a few hours to spare and could volunteer with the Gilmerton 60+ group, please contact the group through Gilmerton Community Centre on 0131 664 2335.

For information or advice about any aspect of the ageing journey, call the Age Scotland Helpline on 0845 125 9732. Help us continue to provide grants to help end isolation for older people by donating to Age Scotland.

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.

Respect the offline community

Guest blogger Judith Donovan CBE, Chair of the Keep Me Posted Campaign, calls for action on behalf of those who can’t, or prefer not to, go online.

Woman at computer

There is no doubt that digital services have revolutionised the way businesses communicate. For those who are confident online this is a great asset, offering a convenient way to manage finances, but what if all services were moved online tomorrow? Would you be able to deal with all your bills digitally? For a lot of people the answer to this question will be no, and for a variety of reasons.

When polled, 21% of Scottish people said they managed their communications from finance and service providers entirely by post, the highest number in the UK. Over a quarter (26%) of Scottish people would choose to have their statements only by post if they were able to.

Despite these compelling facts, businesses are still changing policies when it comes to receiving paper bills and statements and, in some cases, even charging people for the ‘privilege’. Worryingly, there is little in the way of regulation to prevent businesses from removing the choice for postal statements. That is why we have founded Keep Me Posted.

We are a partnership representing charities, consumers and businesses who believe we need to formally protect the right of consumers to choose the way that companies communicate with them. Our aims are outlined in a six point pledge which we urge all companies to adopt when considering their approach to communicating with customers. It emphasises the need for choice.

For those who are not able to access online services, particularly those who are already vulnerable, a move entirely online would lead to confusion and fear. According to the Office for National Statistics 7.1 million adults (14%) in the UK have never used the internet and statistics from GoOnUK reveal that 16 million people in the UK aged 15 and over still do not have basic internet skills. This amounts to a worrying number of technologically isolated people who could stand to lose the basic ability to manage their own finances, should companies take this direction.

This campaign is not about people being afraid of technology or the options that it offers us. We are speaking for those likely to be left behind or disadvantaged by a move they are not ready or able to make. There is currently no one-size-fits-all approach when it comes to communication and, for that reason, service providers cannot make sweeping decisions that will affect everyone that they serve without proper consultation.

We encourage individuals to show their support for our campaign and share their stories with us on either our website or via post:

Keep Me Posted
PO Box 72064

Judith Donovan CBE

Judith Donovan CBE

What happens when we’re left to our own devices?

Age Scotland recently had the pleasure of attending a photography exhibition at the Scottish Parliament, showcasing some amazing images captured by people across the UK on the theme of older people and technology.

A photography competition called Left To Our Own Devices was run on the subject of older people’s experiences with technology. The shortlisted and winning images were presented in the exhibition and challenge the existing stereotypes of people in later years.

The project is managed by KT-EQUAL, a national partnership of researchers working to extend quality life for older people and disabled people, in partnership with our sister charity, AgeUK.

We wanted to share some of the marvellous images from the event:

Gadgets and Gizmos © Ian Hincliffe

Gadgets and Gizmos © Ian Hincliffe

Ian Hincliffe submitted the winning photo above for the category “Gadgets and Gizmos“. He said:

I have always believed that people should have the freedom to draw their own conclusions about the images they view. For me, photography is about capturing scenes I find visually interesting. The photograph was taken outside Leeds Art Gallery. As I was leaving I peered over the stairwell and saw a man using a tablet computer.

With a little help from my friends © Tineke Bout

With a little help from my friends © Tineke Bout

Tineke Bout submitted the fabulous image above, which came third place in the “Out and About” category. She said:

This image shows that someone with a handicap can still engage in and enjoy sports with a little help from her friends. I saw a girl in a wheelchair being helped into a canoe and set off on the lake. The photo shows the empty wheelchair at the lake side; the photo was taken at Lake Windermere in July 2010.

In the home © Adele Long

Going Up © Adele Long

The above photo, taken by Adele Long, was submitted for the “In the Home” category. The story of the image is very poignant:

My brother and I took a series of pictures of our father, Ron, in November 2011. By January 2012 he was dead, and these are the last pictures we have of him. The series of pictures show a wider story of what dementia can do.

Ron was born during the first world war and served in the airforce during the second world war. He, like many of his generation, had immense difficulties getting work after the war, but eventually he carved a career as a tool maker and engineer and had several patents for arc welding torch design.

He was a very religious, quiet, proud, independent and dignified man. The family saw him gradually slide into severe dementia in the last year or so of his life, and his deperate attempts to hold on to his dignity.

Although we had to support him to walk to the lift in the Care Home, we were still ‘guests’ in his home and he was determined to do what ever he could to maintain the role of host and father. When we got to the lift he slowly reached out to press the button and we captured this act of independence. It was only later that it struck us as an iconic representation of the use of technology as a demonstration of dignity and independence.

The images and exhibition are one step in the right direction to help dispel the myths and misconceptions of older people and technology. More, please!