Why we must help older people get tech savvy, by Diana Moran

Diana broadcasting on the Age UK radio station The Wireless

We have been working with Age UK to find the best ways to enable older people to access the internet. In a guest post, fitness and lifestyle expert Diana Moran explains why this work is vital to alleviate loneliness

Sitting comfortably here at home working on my laptop I realise that the two of us have been living and working together for over 25 years!

I tend to assume that other people of my age have been in a relationship with their PC for a long time too. But sadly when I bring up the subject with people of my age (mid 70s) all too many tell me they don’t “do” computers.

I cannot image life on my own without my dear computer as my constant companion!

I check it constantly throughout my waking hours… along with my smartphone too, on which I can also receive my emails. Both pieces of equipment have many other fantastic functions too!

I am mostly self taught and must admit to having learnt a hard lesson or two through trial and error over those 25 years. But like any relationship you have to work hard at it to make it succeed.

Technology at work and play

Technology is essential to my way of life as a working journalist, broadcaster and public speaker and I constantly write copy, read scripts and confirm my working arrangements with publishers or studios.

And of course technology helps me keep up with my friends and social life. I’m so happy to receive messages from friends and family living all around the world and particularly love it when any of my four teenage grandchildren contact me.

Having a Gran who is a bit techy makes me “cool” in their eyes!

Alleviating loneliness

I am very rarely lonely because my life is so full, what with my work and involvement with my favourite charities.

However I realise that at my age I am fortunate because loneliness is becoming a huge issue amongst the older population. I can appreciate what a life line the computer must be to many others living alone.

I’m sad to learn from research by Age UK that about four out of ten people aged 65 or over in the UK do not have access to the internet at home, and that more than five million people over 65 have never used the internet at all.

I feel they are disadvantaged because human contact is so important in older age and I find it unfortunate that without technology skills so many people are missing out. The result can be loneliness and isolation.

I was interested to read the results of a recent study conducted by vouchercloud.com.
They asked nearly 2,000 people aged between 60 and 80, who all had at least one grandchild: “Do you consider yourself to be ‘technologically savvy’?” In response 54% said that yes, they did.

A further 22% in the study said that they had ‘basic knowledge’ of gadgets and technology, whilst the remaining 24% said that they were ‘clueless’.

The same survey also that found 63% engaged with Facebook and 35% with Twitter. Speaking personally I am resisting both Facebook and Twitter since I am nervous about any further waste of my precious time or intrusion into my private life.

I spend many hours in front of my computer already, but being a fitness guru I MUST leave enough time in my life for exercise and activity which keeps me healthy!

Life enriched by technology

Now in my 70s combining both my technical skills and my broadcasting abilities have led me to the perfect job. Two years ago I was invited to host a weekly one hour show on the DAB radio station called The Wireless. The station was designed by Age UK specifically for those people who were not born yesterday!

It has features, celebrity interviews, expert advice and of course plenty of music, from folk to jazz, swing-time to classical, pop to rock – there’s a little something for everyone.

On my programme called We’ve Got Mail we tackle older listener’s queries and concerns. The diversity of the problems can range from medical conditions, personal relationships to pensions and care homes.

Listeners conversant with computers contact us by email, and by phone, but those not yet “tech savvy” contact us in the old fashioned pen to paper way!

I consider myself fortunate to be “tech savvy” and realise my life is richer from my being so, and I am hopeful this will become the norm for the majority of older folk in future generations.

If you are still resisting… don’t. I’ll guarantee your life will be enriched if you take up the challenge to conquer the computer!