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Did you receive a shiny new piece of gadgetry this Christmas? If you’re about to embark on a digital odyssey with your first tablet, laptop or smartphone, what should you be looking out for? What are the most useful websites? Which social networks are right for you? Which apps should you download? (Anybody else’s head starting to spin?)
Fortunately, Athar Abidi from Age UK has got the answers.
“The idea that older people rarely go online and are intimidated by new technology is becoming increasingly outdated (*GNHQ gives selves pat on the back*), but – especially if you’ve got a new bit of kit – this blog is here to hold your hand and help answer some of the questions you might still have!
The important thing is to take things at your own pace and decide what is right for you. There are lots of great websites, social networks and photo-sharing tools out there, but they all appeal to different people for different reasons - one is not more right or better than another.
Lots of people use the internet primarily for finding information – obviously Google can help you find anything from your nearest dry cleaners to the lyrics of your favourite song – but there are some other great sites that everyone should know about. Gov.uk is the website for everything related to government services and information. It is simple to use and has all the forms you might normally go to the post office for. NHS choices is a good starting point for any information or advice on health. They also link to other relevant organisations and charities, and host lively forums where you can meet people with similar experiences. And there’s Age UK of course - check out our website to find out how to get involved in campaigns and for news on research.
You may already have a Facebook account and use it to keep in contact with your friends and family, but did you know that most business and charities have Facebook pages, too? By ‘liking’ these pages you will receive posts from them in your newsfeed, keeping you up to date on news, special offers and events near you. These pages are like mini forums where people with shared interests can talk to each other and share things. So, who to ‘like’? Well, Gransnet have a page for starters, and Age UK also has a vibrant Facebook community. Your local supermarket probably has a page too, and search for your favourite local pub or restaurant, and they might even offer a discount just for ‘liking’ their page!
Twitter is also for connecting with others - the difference being that Twitter provides a way for people to share little bits of information (no more than 140 characters long), and you can follow whoever you like. Like Facebook, following someone means their posts will appear in your feed. It’s a really quick and easy way to share your opinion on something, ask a question or just tell everyone what you’ve been up to.
Facebook is great for sharing photographs, but there are other options, too. Take Instagram. 85-year-old Rex Redstone, or ‘Instagram-pa’ as he likes to refer to himself as, wanted to share photos of his life online with his friends and family, and chose to use the site: "I can now share all the photos from my younger days, which have been kept in dusty albums in the cupboard for donkeys’ years, on the internet", he said. He was helped in setting his page up by Barclay’s Digital Eagles, the bank’s in-branch specialists who can help novices understand how using the internet and mobile apps can enhance their daily lives.
If you’re getting going with a new tablet computer or smartphone, you will need to download apps to try some of the things discussed here. These are programs that you download onto your device which normally serve a single purpose such as running Facebook, maps or games.
There is an app for everything. You download them by going onto a ‘store’ - the App Store on Apple devices, or Google play on Android devices - and many are totally free. Others you have to pay a small amount for. The choice can be overwhelming, but starting off with Facebook or something else you’re already familiar with - is a good idea. The beauty of apps (rather than just visiting a site like Facebook on a browser) is that they are designed especially for your device, so they’re a lot more user-friendly - the text is much easier to read, for example!
Some of the most useful apps make practical information really easy to access. For example, the National Rail app will give you live train times and help you plan your journeys. Google maps will show you where you are, and the navigation tools can guide you to your final destination by car, on foot or even using public transport. If you have missed something on the telly, all the main channels have TV on Demand apps, so you can always catch up, and if you’re a film buff, an app like Netflix will let you watch thousands of films and series at the touch of a button!
Hopefully these ideas are enough to get you thinking about how to make the most of your new gadget rather than letting it gather dust. Remember that everyone uses technology in different ways and with a bit of research, patience and perseverance, you’ll be wondering how you ever got by without it!
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