A birthday present of a laptop led to Louise Bennett and her mum setting up a group for older web users - Surfing for Sixty and Over
My mum was 73 before she owned her first computer. I bought a laptop for her birthday four years ago and it changed her life. She was always active but now it gives her an excuse to be even more so, keeping in touch with all the local groups she’s involved with and pestering the council periodically.
Seeing how readily she took to computing, we thought we’d start a group in the borders called Surfing for Sixty and Over. We started it three years ago and can safely say we’ve been transforming the lives of pensioners ever since.
Our oldest member is currently 84. But we’ve had a 92 year old lady who we managed to set up on Facebook which was something of an achievement and proving you’re never too old to learn.
What the group aims to do is give older people the skills and confidence for them to use computers on their own. That can be daunting for older folk. Mostly they are discouraged by what they hear – that the internet is complicated and you need a degree to navigate the web.
Its’ not the case – even the most reluctant can be taught how to turn it on and get to the applications they need (such as email) without having to worry about anything else.
Most older people want access to the internet to keep in touch with family; it’s a lifeline for those with family abroad. Video communications – such as Skpe – is great for this and doesn’t require much knowledge.
My mum coordinates the group. As a former teacher she’s very good at explaining things in a simple manner. I’m a teacher too but my role’s mostly on the technical side.
However, since we’ve started we’ve become much more. Increasingly we deal with a lot of older people’s issues, often helping them with practical things. So we set up a committee amongst ourselves to deal with these issues as and when they arise.
Occasionally we are able to get support or assistance for some of the club’s member’s but we feel it is our duty to make sure we’re supporting our community in whatever way we can.
We got a very generous donation from Hewitts – a local outsourcing firm – of a dozen refurbished laptops last year. It meant we could give these to people who most needed them. One 78 year old man had his stolen and was in a panic about contacting his grandchildren in Malaysia on Christmas day.
He was overwhelmed when we delivered a new laptop to him. Small acts can make such a big difference to people’s lives.
The group has always been popular. We even get referrals from GPs who tell patients who may be isolated it’s a good way of getting regular contact with others both in person and online.
Being involved in the group is hugely rewarding. Older people have such a great attitude to life. It’s certainly changed the way I think about old age. The elderly are so eager to learn and bring a whole lifetime of experience with them. Society really needs to value them more