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Never write off the elderly when it comes to technology

PUBLISHED: 10:51 08 July 2020 | UPDATED: 10:51 08 July 2020

Elderly people have thrived during lockdown when it comes to computers and video calls. Picture: Getty Images

Elderly people have thrived during lockdown when it comes to computers and video calls. Picture: Getty Images

Archant

A lot of stereotypes have been going to the wall over the last few months as we see things in fresh ways, and that is to be welcomed.

One of them is the antiquated notion that older folk are, well, antiquated. Baffled by modern technology, for example. Necessity has been the mother of invention for the charity I support, Age UK Norwich, where the enthusiastic staff have worked hard to reconfigure many of our regular activities – social groups, exercise classes, dance, crafts – into online video.

And guess what? It’s really taken off. More than 500 older people are regularly tuning in to sessions ranging from local history to mindfulness.

It’s confirmation of something this city charity has always said… that the elderly are capable, creative and curious. We hardly needed new evidence, in fact. A good proportion of our volunteers are over retirement age and charities across the city could tell you the same story. In many hidden ways the older generation contribute massively. They are drivers, trustees, mentors, school assistants, or out there supporting the NHS to name but a few..

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So Age UK’s lockdown transition to remote services is working well, as we expected.

But the message this month is that the charity is still there, just as much, for those who are not online.

Community and Neighbourhood Support manager Sam Apeh last week told me: “Tackling loneliness is a key part of what we do, and we are very aware that those without access to a computer are potentially the most socially isolated of all. We have stepped up our telephone-based befriending, during the emergency, offering regular, friendly calls not only to existing clients but new ones.

“But in addition to that, we’re now launching DVD versions of some of our popular online videos, and the good news is that we’ll send these out to older people in the city who are unable to see us online.”

Meanwhile, many businesses have been finding that Zoom and similar video-conferencing platforms can bring people together. Age UK has spotted this, too, and developed its own version. The ‘Coffee and Chat’ Zoom call is now on offer for older people who just fancy a natter, and the chance to make new friends.

See www.ageuk.org.uk/norwich for more or call 01603 496333


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