Gransnet forums


LautelGransnet (GNHQ) Wed 21-Jan-15 15:47:50

Digital Champions: changing lives through the power of the internet

Jan, 57, from King’s Heath in the West Midlands, is an Age UK Digital Champion and is helping to inspire and support other older people to get online, and now you can too! People over 55 can nominate themselves for Digital Champion of the year. Find out more on the AgeUK website.

Jan McCarthy

Silver Surfers: How an AgeUK Digital Champion is changing lives through the power of the internet

Posted on: Wed 21-Jan-15 15:47:50


Lead photo

Jan is an AgeUK Digital Champion and grandmother of seven.

It’s been a huge honour for me to be an Age UK Digital Champion, and to help further the cause of encouraging and supporting older people to get online.

It seems to me that being able to handle digital technology is one of the single biggest challenges we face, and being ‘digitally excluded’ can be a big disadvantage. The Internet has so much to offer, and many services - such as applying for a visa to travel abroad - are now accessible online.

It’s not until you get online and realise how much human communication is happening there that you begin to see how vital it is to invest time and energy in acquiring the necessary skills. Those who have ‘bitten the bullet’ and are now proficient - even if it took them a year - will tell you they don’t regret it for a moment.

If I had not had been able to access the Internet when I had the series of mental health breakdowns that eventually made it impossible for me to pursue my career in teaching, I would have been completely isolated and lost. I was simply too ill to go out. Bipolar UK’s online forum, where kind people wrote me messages of hope and guided me through my first stumbling steps towards self-managing my bipolar brain, literally saved my life.

There is a lot of scientific research indicating that lifelong learning can delay the onset and combat the symptoms of dementia.

Since then, I've lost count of the ways I use digital technology but I can tell you that with osteoarthritis now making me less able to withstand the rigours of the high street, most of my Christmas shopping was done online. My husband and I have five children and seven grandchildren between us, so you can imagine how many kilos of gifts and Christmas paraphernalia I'm talking about!

The IT Club I started on the sheltered housing scheme where we live has now been going for three years without a break. Those who were there at the start are now helping others, and that gives them a tremendous feeling of achievement. And there’s more exciting news: our volunteer tutor Steve has now applied for funding to provide a mobile IT club for older people in our area! Soon many more ‘silver surfers’ will be enjoying a cup of tea and a biscuit, the camaraderie of the ‘Silver Mouse IT Club’ - and the sensation of those ‘little grey cells’ vibrating with the joy of learning new skills. There is a lot of scientific research indicating that lifelong learning can delay the onset and combat the symptoms of dementia.

I haven’t forgotten the scary feeling of sitting in front of a computer, tablet or iPhone for the first time, and so I have huge sympathy for anyone who finds themselves in that position. But help is out there, and it’s all incredibly worthwhile, as I'm sure the followers of Gransnet will agree.

It’s up to those of us who are ‘in the know’ to make sure our older friends, neighbours and family members find their way into the Wonderland that exists beyond that small, rectangular window.

I'm now helping Age UK in its search for their Digital Champion of the Year - someone who has taken the leap to get online and can be an inspiration to others. So if you have your own digital journey to share, or you have family or friends who you feel should be recognised, send in your nominations!

People aged 55+ can nominate themselves or be nominated. More information about entering can be found at the AgeUK website. The competition closes 30th January 2015. The Awards will be presented on Friday 20 March at a ceremony in London.

By Jan McCarthy

Twitter: @GransnetLocal