14th November 2012
Empowering older people
By Tom Wright, Group Chief Executive, Age UK
For the 80% of us who use the Internet it is difficult to imagine life without the convenience of being online. From connecting with family and friends to looking up information online, its uses seem to know no bounds.
Yet 5.4 million people aged 65+ have never been online. They have never received an email from a loved one, caught-up on their favourite TV show or browsed the web’s shopping aisles.
Age UK has a history of empowering older people to get online to enjoy all of these benefits and more. However, we can’t do this alone which is why we are delighted to be a Founder Partner of Go ON UK.
We believe that by being part of Go ON UK we really can help to get even more older people online while influencing the government and private sector to support us.
Like all Go ON UK Founder Partners, we have committed to help get more people online. Age UK has pledged to help our staff and many volunteers to have the digital skills they need, as well as supporting all staff to retire from the charity with the digital know-how needed to help them in later life.
In addition, in the coming years we will ensure all of our vital information and advice contains details about the benefits of being online, along with continuing what we know best: giving older people around the country the chance to learn hands-on about the Internet in classes designed by them, for them.
These are Age UK’s commitments, and by working within Go ON UK we hope to help the UK become the world’s most digitally literate nation.
I have found with my grandparents that the will and desire to be part of this modern technological world is very much there, but they seem to be let down time and again by the people they try to deal with to make this happen.
Sales people in shops like Dixons and Currys try to flog them fancy high powered computers/laptops that the average home user would have no need for. Norton Anti-Virus protection was sold as a 'must have', even though they had unknowingly already got free virus protection from their ISP. And as for the service they receive from Virgin Media - atrocious! They have recently moved house and have found the whole experience a nightmare. The internet would not work and call after call to Virgin seemed to get them nowhere. Letters have gone unanswered, and when they do call, they are met with customer service agents who do not seem aware that the language they are using is utterly confusing to an older person. How is my 74 year old grandmother supposed to know exactly how the wifi works and what cable is what?!
My point is that my grandparents are very intelligent and capable people, but they are dealing with unfamiliar territory - digital adopters as they say, not digital natives. In our experience, the service providers and retailers don't seem to have any desire to assist older people by being honest, speaking in plain English and delivering good customer service.
It is all very well encouraging older people to get online, but how do we make this much more straightforward, and how do we keep them online? My grandparents are considering "giving up the computer", as they say they cannot deal with the stress of the technology always going wrong and then having to deal with service providers who talk to them as though they should understand every inch of the hard drive. This should be easier and better.
Slowly but surely my grandmother was coming around to the idea of possibly creating a facebook page and doing her first online shop in eBay, but I feel we have taken steps backward this week and it is not her fault. I am sure she is not the only older person at their wits end, and some of them are not lucky enough to have family and friends who can help, but even I am at a loss for how to deal with the poor customer service at Virgin Media.
As a champion for older people in this country, I am looking to Age UK to take a hard line with these companies to stop taking advantage of older people and selling them things they don't need, stop making it so complicated and start returning calls! Otherwise we risk undoing all the fantastic work which has been done to help older people get online, and reinforcing the fear in some that "computers are for young people, too complicated for me!".
With grateful thanks for your attention
I feel sorry for some in rural situations with a mere 1 meg speed. No use trying to view videos at that rate. By the way, the slower speed rating was by one of the comparison sites. After all they make their money by getting people to change !
Admittedly I am something of an 81 year old expert. My only problem has been with the cost and I have successfully reduced that by reducing the speed and cutting back on some things like anytime calls. Virgin have also installed a free set top box for my TV and cabled that in. They hope I will buy extra TV shows - they will be disappointed :))
So, cable is the way to go if you can get it. And BT are getting around to it, too.
If older people want to view a new site which caters for them they can try www.silverhairs.com. They will find me on the technology page. K. P.