Modern technology can be a frightening phenomenon and many older people see it as more of a hindrance than a help. It is easy to be put off by the fear of getting it wrong, of internet scams or of human contact being replaced with a screen. These are all valid concerns, but there is a lot that modern technology can do to enrich people’s lives, including those of the older generation.
If you are keen to keep in touch with family and friends who don’t live nearby or are off on their travels, then technology can help to keep you in the loop.
Through a computer, mobile phone or tablet, you can access video messaging, such as Skype or Facetime, which enables you not only to speak to friends and family remotely, but also to see them at the same time. This is particularly great for speaking to children, who love to connect with a face on a video image when talking to loved ones.
There are apps you can use to message individual friends or groups of friends (‘app’ is just short for application and refers to any type of computer programme. They usually run on smartphones or tablets and can be easily accessed by clicking on an icon). Using apps such as WhatsApp or Messenger can make it easier to keep in touch, arrange social events and share photos. For example, many families have a family WhatsApp group.
We all love seeing family photos, but gone (thankfully) are the days of the post-holiday slide show. Photos can be easily shared via messaging apps or by photo sharing apps such as Google Photos.
Lots of people enjoy a visit to the supermarket or shopping centre, and there are many benefits to doing this in terms of socialising and keeping active, but for others, who may have limited mobility, limited time or would simply rather not hit the shops, internet shopping can make life a whole lot easier.
You can do your weekly food shop online and have it delivered at a time that you choose (most supermarkets offer one hour time slots for delivery). The advantages are that you can do your shopping in the comfort of your own home, take your time, add to your order as you think of things you’ve forgotten and you don’t have to drive, push a trolley, carry shopping or queue.
You can also shop for, well, pretty much anything else, online. Whether it’s a birthday present or a new plug for the kitchen sink, you’ll be able to get it on the internet!
Of course, when shopping online, it is important to be wary of scams and only buy from established online retailers and from websites of well-known brands.
The internet is also an invaluable tool when it comes to finding things out. You can go online to find out what’s on in your local area; you can keep up to date with local and national news; you can look up the latest weather forecast or get directions or travel information.
If there is a particular topic that is of interest or concern to you, the internet offers endless sites for you to read and carry out research.
If you are in need of support, the internet can help you find out about, and make contact with, a whole host of services, such as the NHS online site, NHS Choices, charities such as Age UK and multiple other specialist charities who offer advice and support to older people.
Bills and banking
With the recent closure of many bank branches, being able to use internet banking is becoming more essential. Internet banking allows you to manage your accounts, pay bills and move money and it can be easily accessed 24 hours a day. You can also order a cheque book and view online statements.
If you have access to the internet, online banking could be a more convenient way to manage your money.
There are apps for just about everything; once you get going, you’ll start to get to grips with which ones are worth downloading and which ones are rubbish!
But just to get you thinking: there are apps for researching your family tree, reminding you to take pills, monitoring your exercise and health, drawing, playing games, listening to the radio, brain training or doing physio. There is even a toilet finder app! Whatever your needs or interests, there is almost certainly an app out there that can benefit you.
So, while modern technology is by no means the answer to everything, it does have its place and it may be that you could use it to your advantage.
If you’d like to find out more or get some help and guidance, here’s a few places that can help:
The majority of local Age UK offices provide free IT courses for the elderly. For more details you can telephone Age UK on 0800 678 1174 or visit: http://www.ageuk.org.uk/services/in-your-area/it-training/.
If you have never used a computer or the Internet before, and need to learn basic computing skills, many libraries offer free courses. Contact your local library to see what courses are available near you.
The Open University provides a free online introduction to using digital technology. You can call the Open University on 0300 303 5303 or visit: www.open.edu/
Gransnet also offer helpful advice on how to access and use technology. For more information visit: