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Why isn't everyone online?

(47 Posts)
CariGransnet (GNHQ) Wed 19-Sep-12 16:59:18

In this week's post, Gransnet editor Geraldine looks at the real reasons why people steer clear of the internet - and what should really be done to promote digital inclusion. Do add your thoughts here.

Greatnan Wed 19-Sep-12 17:29:18

As far as posting on forums goes, I suppose it helps if you have lots of time to spare and a love of words. Oh, and perhaps an enjoyment of debating.
For internet use in general, such as keeping bank accounts, or googling for information, I know that my sister simply finds the mechanics of it too much for her. She has had a course at the local library and admitted that the tutor spents most his time with her because she had so much trouble even switching it on. But then, she has never been able to use her VCR or her answering machine.
It would be nice if there were tutors, possibly volunteers, (suitably vetted), who could visit the housebound in their homes.

crimson Wed 19-Sep-12 18:07:48

When I had a slight mobility problem a few years ago it was the internet that preserved my sanity; knowing that, even if I couldn't get out and about I could still meet and talk to interesting people from all over the world was unbelieveable. Up until then I had no desire to have a computer; I'd done several computing for the terrified courses..and was still terrified sad. Then I had to use a computer at work and, as they gave me hardly any training I thought the best way to understand how to use one was to do something that interested me [not spread sheets and stuff]. So I started studying horse racing form online and then joined horse racing forums, then film forums and found I was chatting to people far more interesting than people I met in the 'real' world [apologies to all those people in the real world]. Then I'd find myself wanting to find something out and was amazed that virtually any information I wanted about anything was there in an instant. Get home form the cinema and instantly go online to find out what other people thought of the film. It was fear that stopped me initially. One course I did was for beginners but, from the minute I sat down they started talking in terms I didn't understand; it made me feel like a complete fool. And then, once you've learned something you still need to practice it a lot straight away. I still can't do cutting and pasting and would love to have someone just show me how to do things; step by step instructions don't seem to sink in with me. I also felt that the computer had stopped people speaking to each other and resented them for it. My partner won't have one for that reason, even though he uses my email address for things and his brothers computer to copy things. I still won't use the computer for buying things or bank transactions as I worry about the security. The cost must put a lot of people off. I know it makes me sound richer than I am but I can afford a few hundred pounds for things if I need to but that is far beyond the reach of a lot of people. I think computers in many peoples' homes would completely turn their lives around and I agree with Greatnan, it would be fantastic if trustworthy people could help them [and me!].

Greatnan Wed 19-Sep-12 18:16:39

Crimson, I identify so much with what you say. I find that if I just put 'How do I....' into google I get a choice of replies.
I cut and paste all my jokes. Just hold left click over the text you want to paste and it will go blue. Then right click and you will get a list which includes 'copy'. Left click on that. Then go to wherever you want to place the text and right click. You will get a list which includes 'paste'. Left click and - voila!. I hope I have remembered all the clicks correctly!

I use google to get names of actors or singers, lyrics of songs I have forgotten, reviews of places/hotels I might visit, translations, jokes, Youtube clips, weather forecasts, maps. etc. etc.

granjura Wed 19-Sep-12 20:03:02

Where I lived in the UK there were lots of free courses for the 'elderly' around. One was at our local community centre, with disabled access and with volunteers prepared to pick up and return 'students' home.

vampirequeen Wed 19-Sep-12 20:04:01

I'm trapped in the house most of the time. The internet keeps me sane.

annodomini Wed 19-Sep-12 20:17:56

When I first had a computer, the internet was in its infancy and I wasn't on line. I used my little Mac for word processing and desktop publishing - it was very useful for making study guides and worksheets for my students. The powers that were in college made a big song and dance about the internet when it arrived and we all had to gather round to be shown how it worked. I couldn't understand why it was supposed to be so difficult! I loved it then and I still do. My late uncle taught himself to use it in his 80s and had fun corresponding by email in Swedish, having worked out how to find the Swedish characters on the keyboard. So what I'm working towards is that fear of the unfamiliar is probably what deters people of our generation from going to taster courses. The initial expense must be a deterrent, including the expense of setting up broadband. I speak to many older people at the CAB who have no access to the net and have no real wish to be connected. Probably we have to accept that some people just don't want to use it - lots of them say they'll get family members to do it for them.

merlotgran Wed 19-Sep-12 20:24:11

I think our generation is very lucky. We've grown up with so much change we're pretty adaptable. Like driving, I intend to carry on using whatever skills I have and acquiring as many new ones as I can so I don't stagnate. I rely on the internet for so much I couldn't be without a pc and when my old one gave up the ghost I couldn't wait to buy a laptop. It's so liberating.

Nelliemoser Wed 19-Sep-12 20:38:11

I love my computer and the internet very much.
All that wonderful information at my finger tips. Being able to go on line and this week find out how to make tab top curtains, find information about Richard 111. Look up the weather. Send off "flaming emails" about restricted disabled parking. Find practice files for my choir music. Look up information about health issues. It is such an amazing resource I wish it had been available years ago.

petallus Wed 19-Sep-12 21:06:24

I love the Internet for all the reasons mentioned already. Extra happy now I have invested in an iPad.

Grannylin Wed 19-Sep-12 21:16:10

I never cease to be amazed at the number of silly questions I need to ask Google and the brilliant answers I get.
Tonight's problem: My petrol flap won't open and I need to fill up with petrol....and it's told me how to do it.Phew!

glitabo Thu 20-Sep-12 13:38:41

Petallus I have ipad envy. I have a macbook and an iphone but I would still love to have an ipad but i can't justify it. sad
I also have an apple TV, great for watching you tube and netflix on the TV

Knowsley Thu 20-Sep-12 15:05:36

I work for Age UK on Merseyside, teaching the over-50s how to become Silver Surfers. I know all you reading this are already accomplished silver surfers, but if you have some friends or relatives who you think would benefit from lessons, check out the Age UK website - - enter the person's postcode and it'll tell you their nearest Age UK, and whether it offers computer classes. Some, such as ourselves, offer home visits for the housebound, giving 1-to-1 tuition.

I was asked to give a quick outline of what I did, and how to approach teaching computer skills to older people by Digital Unite - an organisation to promote Digital Inclusion (getting more people on-line and and/or able to use the Internet). Here's my write-up - - This is a wonderful website, there is a Guides section that gives easy-to-follow advice on various computer skills and tips on how to do things on the computer. There's also the Community section where people can pose questions and get reliable answers within a short time.

I hope this is of help to some of you.


Greatnan Thu 20-Sep-12 15:08:09

Thank you, Bill - I will look it up for my sister.

swangranny Thu 20-Sep-12 17:08:24

my husband is afraid of "looking silly" when he makes a mistake using the computer so he leaves it all to me. Am I making a mistake in doing all his on-line stuff for him? or maybe he's too old to learn new tricks?

Indigoblue Thu 20-Sep-12 18:20:54

I love my computer and going online. But I should imagine that the cost of a computer, the cost of maintaining it, paying someone to get you out of trouble if you haven't got a handy child or geek, plus the increasing cost of broadband and the decreasing value of the state pension goes a long way towards explaining why a lot of people can't go outline - and yes, I know you can use the computers at the libraries (if your local library hasn't been axed).

Grannyknot Thu 20-Sep-12 18:36:02

Many years ago, when computers were new smile all of us at work were tested for computer aptitude and I was told I was way ahead on the tests! I learnt DOS on a green screen Commodore. I love my computer and spend a great deal of time happily browsing, reading stuff, looking at fashion/celebrity photos in gorgeous colour (when I feel like having a bit of glamour in my life), catching up with telly, skyping, chatting online etc. My laptop is never far away when we watch a movie at home so we can quickly find the answer to that niggling 'where do we know this actor from?' question. Husband was not computer literate as he didn't require to be for work, but I have been and continue to be very impressed with his 'endeavour' in that regard which has paid off and his keyboard skills are improving all the time. We've partly been forced to progress with digital gadgets etc generally because our children who are both computer geeks are mostly of the 'read the manual and ask again if you still don't get it' school when we ask for help (this is good). However! Every now and again I have a complete techno-detox, don't go near the computer - and don't even carry my mobile phone - for days on end. It's wonderful.

Mamie Thu 20-Sep-12 19:10:18

Just (rather late) got the pun about Itea and biscuits. I was trying to make it rhyme with a Swedish furniture shop. hmm

MaggieP Thu 20-Sep-12 19:14:31

I find I am addicted to my iPad which I acquired 15 months ago, DH bought a MacPro computer at same time so now we are total Apple converts and love them though still getting frustrated at times by some of their peculiarities!
I did a local computer course when I retired several years ago to improve my skills and enjoyed being with others, all learning different things and working at our own pace.
However I do have some very elderly relatives who really do not want to start learning now but just enjoy what they already have in their lives. Their younger families help them out!

FlicketyB Thu 20-Sep-12 20:16:51

Let me see,
1) Cost; many low income and pensioner households cannot afford to buy a computer nor can they afford the cost of broadband.
2) Complexity; Computers are not things you can just plug in and switch on like a washing machine. They need to be set up, all sorts of adjustments and changes need to be made to them before they are ready to use. Although I am a high level user of computers and have been using them for nearly 35 years I still rely on DH or DD. to set my computer up and do all the trouble shooting for me. I get a magazine called Computeractive aimed at people like me and the very basic nature of many of the questions on it. 'How do I make folders?', 'How do I delete a file?' make it clear how many computer owners really have no idea how to use a computer even though they possess one.
3) Illiteracy; There are a significant proportion of the population who are functionally illiterate. They may be dyslexic or have managed to get through school with out grasping more than a hazy idea about reading but you need to be literate to use a computer.
4) To put it bluntly their are a significant group of people who may not have learning problems but are not far above that level, they cannot grasp how to use computers or think through even the simplest problems.
5) People, sometimes in the above two groups, who have chaotic and disorganised lives, possibly addictions, that make the learning of any skill, let alone the discipline or money needed to buy a computer, broadband line and use it effectively. It is not the ability to utilise computers that is lacking but the personal organisation skills
6) Ther are many older people, not with dementia, but with disabilities and medical problems that make life very diificult. Constant pain robs you of the ability to concentrate on anything, medication that smudges the senses again makes concentration and learning difficult. Some people just have 'tired minds' and do not want to know, some are just anti any technology, anything modern etc etc

Hows that for a start

GadaboutGran Thu 20-Sep-12 20:54:43

Reasons my mother (88) isn't on-line:

- Fear & fear of being thought stupid (left school at 13 & always felt she wasn't clever.)
- She learned how to do emails at the Library but the computers there were very slow & time slots were only half an hour. She got fed up having to ask the Libraran if things went wrong & always assumed it was something she'd done wrong (often wasn't). Getting to the Library wasn't convenient.
- Cost of computers & having no concept of the range of what they can do or how to access different services.
- IT language is completely foreign to her so she starts by feeling it is foreign territory & not to do with her.
- Frightened by all the horror stories about emails, security, facebook etc & sees them as the cause of many social problems. She would never be seen dead answering her mobile on a train & in any case has it switched off most of the time because of the cost.
- She is an analogue thinker, very good at practical & mechanical skills like mending cars, refelting shed roof etc & IT needs a very different way of thinking.
- She has got through life this far without it & can't see the need for it - she'd prefer to talk to her relatives & be sent real photos, & go to a real bank & see real people. She believes computers are addictive & waste a lot of people time.
- She'd find it hard to keep up with all the rapid changes & is horrified by how often people change their computers etc. By the time she had learnt one system it would have been up-dated.
- She prefers to buy things she sees from local suppliers who give good service, even if she pays a bit more.

Some of these points are also mine even though I've had a computer since doing an early computer-based MSc course in 1989. The technology then was slow & the course was so badly run I gave it up. I struggled with vast changes in technology learning by trial & error doing a Phd from 1997-2005. Getting the final thing checked & printed turned into my metaphor of hell - every little change I made caused massive formatting changes. I couldn't keep up with younger students who had no problem with things like e-learning/ multiple networking even pre-Facebook (where did they get the time to do it all!). Much IT terminology has no meaning for me & though I couldn't have run my business & studied without it, I still feel very incompetent & rely on husband & son (who can interrogate my lap-top remotely) if things go wrong (& often their frustration with me is because they don't always know what they are doing.) I've told husband he can't divorce me or die before me otherwise I'd never be on-line. Then when my laptop was stolen in a burglary I lost all my photos that I hadn't got round to backing up because I forgot how to do it. Husband spent weeks restoring his personal finance records (Quicken) when it crashed. I could go on but this is already too long & my cheeks go red & BP rises when off-loading on-line!

crimson Tue 25-Sep-12 13:07:04

This might be of interest. talktalk were so desperate for the S.O. to take out a phone line/broadband package with them that they're actually giving him a reconditioned computer [he's never bothered with a computer]. Not sure if other broadband companies offer the same but may be worth looking into.

Birdsong Tue 25-Sep-12 17:37:43

I will be moving away from my small community in a rural setting but long to keep in touch with many female friends through facebook which few of them use. Attitudes against engaging with the general internet world seem to be based on fear from scare stories about intrusion in one's private life, having identity stolen, ulterior motives of advertisers, insecurity over money transactions and a general belief that modern technology is a stressful accomplishment that isn't neccessary. It isn't through lack of access to computers as most have one in the family. I offer to help learn and show how to be in control of using social networks but I hit a luddite brick wall whenever I bring the subject up and realise that 'goodbye' will mean loss of chat and a re-learning for me of letter writing skills - anyone got a quill?

JO4 Tue 25-Sep-12 18:30:09

I don't think I would be online today if I hadn't had a son living at home to get it all set up.

I think that's probably why some older people don't use the internet. No one to introduce them to it.

JO4 Tue 25-Sep-12 18:32:40

Mind you, I don't think it's all good. We managed fine before it was invented.

We actually went out and visited the bank to check our finances. And high streets flourished.

Then there are the children who get deprived of 'mum time'.