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