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Connecting people with technology – show someone they are loved this Christmas

20th Nov 2015

It’s official: the countdown to Christmas has begun! Even if you live on the moon, you will have seen or at least heard about John Lewis’s latest Christmas advert, in which a little girl spots an elderly man living alone on the moon through her telescope. Throughout the advert she tries several means of contacting him without success, before finally managing to send him a telescope with which he can look back down at her and know that she is thinking of him.

man on the moon
The message from Age UK is to remember everyone at this time of year. The older population can be particularly vulnerable, with over 1 million people reporting that they always or often feel lonely. Although it is not the same as face-to-face interactions, research suggests that communicating with one another online can help people combat social isolation.
The Generation that Technology Forgot
I am aware of referring to the elderly as though they are a different species. We talk about the old, about their isolation and their epidemic of loneliness as if age brings such hardship. It doesn’t of course. They are us – or just like us. One day, we will be them. And we’ll still feel 21 inside, as they do now.
Using the internet to enhance our everyday lives is something most of us take for granted. We use it to pay bills, do our shopping and connect with others through social networking, with the right support it’s never too late to learn the basics. The fact is, today’s technology can keep seniors engaged, connected, mentally active, and physically safe
There are some very tech-savy older people around, but there is still a large group (61% of people aged 75 and above have still never used the internet, Age UK, 2015). I would include my mum in this category, she has made valiant efforts to get to grips from a kindle, to an ipad but she found it intimidating and complicated to navigate the internet. She is not alone, many older people just need a little bit of help to walk them through the process of setting up a new device.
Tea, Cake & Technology
Recently, we ran a free Technology Tea Party for some of Aberdeen’s Silver Surfers and met some amazing characters who were all extremely enthusiastic to learn how to engage with technology. This informal session aimed to show older people how technology could benefit them in their own lives and help give them the skills and, perhaps more importantly, the confidence to use it whilst also connecting them to the wider world. We do not ask for remuneration, or publicity, this is our small attempt to give something back and pay forward the help and support I have received over the years.
“Before this project, I was bored to death. I was just waiting for my time to finish. Now, all of a sudden I’m wide awake. I’m alive again.”
One gentleman (let’s call him Stan )who is 97 years young, has excelled following the session and has since been in touch to tell us how he now enjoys communicating with his far-flung family via Skype, has reminisced using Google earth to visit where he grew up, orders his shopping online, and has maintained his enthusiasm & tips for gardening with like-minded people without the need to get to a library or leave his home. On-line communities are socially sustaining and often lead to real life friendship. In this case Stan shared with us how he has excitingly met the potential love of his life online. She is a young one at only 85 but he likes to think that the age gap won’t be a problem for them.
Adapting to suit Their Needs
Another lady Jane, reached out to us having bought a new laptop but wasn’t sure how to get set up or what might best benefit her. She was often house bound as she was the carer for her disabled daughter, so we went out to visit her and help her get connected. Just like we do in our bespoke IT training sessions we designed a session that would suit her needs.
“The experience has changed both our lives. I was so very very lonely. My daughter who finds calm when listening to music is now connected to Spotify, I listen to digitial radio when I get up in the morning and I can book the doctor appointments online. Most importantly though technology has made it easier for me to be involved in my grandchildren’s lives. For the first time using Skype I was able to share in the joy of my granddaughter opening her birthday presents and have been reading bedtime stories to her via Skype. I cannot thank you enough for opening up my world.”
We are thrilled that both Stan and Jane have been able to enrich their life through technology, and It goes to show that you are never too old to learn, and that it pays to take the time to teach yourself a new skill every now and again!
We also learnt a great deal ourselves that day, as the Silver Surfers were keen to share their knowledge and experiences with us. It was a great opportunity for people to come together, socialise and learn a thing or two over a cup of tea so we hope to make these a regular feature at Appetite for Business.

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