How quickly have those three words become part of our everyday conversations, and how often do we say them? For so many of us the use of IT, being online and using the internet is just a part of our everyday lives, yet for so many older people it is a real fear. Resent research has shown that only 39% of people over 65 have accessed the internet once in their lives.
So why do older people have a real fear of IT? For some it’s the fear of 'breaking it', of being 'hacked' and of giving out their personal details. For others it’s the language used and for many it's simply not understanding what the internet is for and how they could benefit from getting online. 'I’ve managed all my life without it so why bother now?'
But bother they should.
Being online for older people can literally help them improve their lives and wellbeing. We are an ageing society, where more and more older people find themselves living alone. According to Sarah Rochira, The Older People’s Commissioner for Wales, loneliness in older age is a real issue affecting many, and a 'growing epidemic'. The internet can help us keep in touch with family and friends - we can email, text, Skype or Facebook, make new friends and re-connect with old ones. It can help us keep connected to the world and allows us to contribute to society, whatever our age.
The cost of equipment is often perceived as being prohibitive by older people yet the financial saving that can be made from researching the best prices and buying online can be very cost effective. Being digitally included means you are not financially excluded. For older people, many living on low incomes, using the internet can save them money.
Whether we like it or not, IT is playing an increasing part in all our lives and older people should not be excluded. Care & Repair caseworkers are seen as trusted advisers by their clients, which is why we joined with Communities 2.0 to deliver the MyPad project. Giving caseworkers an iPad to use while visiting our clients in their own homes allows them to show how easy it is to use the internet; the benefits that can be gained and what can be done online, from shopping to booking cinema tickets to emailing grandchildren in Australia to checking the bus timetable.
IT has real benefits for older people and we all need to encourage them and help them to get online. I know it is a real cliché but, you’re never too old to learn. That includes learning how to 'Google it'!
Head of Learning and Enterprise, Care & Repair Cymru