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Never too old to do IT!

20 March 2013

Earlier this week Age UK unveiled its latest Internet Champion of the Year – an individual who has embraced the World Wide Web and encouraged others to get online too. Congratulations to this year’s two award-winners, Janet Tchamani and James Perry, who both provide inspiration for those looking to take their first steps on the Internet. 

BIG-funded projects across the country are also proving that age is no barrier to those wanting to keep pace with technology. Just ask Betty Holden – Pride Media’s latest success story…

Betty Holden

Betty Holden discovered the joys of the Internet and now helps others do so too

Betty Holden, 83,  has lived in Manchester for over 25 years. The retired council worker, widowed with two children and four grandchildren, enjoys a full and active life.

However, a few years ago it got harder for her to walk. She found herself housebound and increasingly disconnected from the outside world.

“When I started to have problems with mobility, my children bought a laptop for me so I could keep connected with the outside world.

“They told me I’d be able to do some online shopping and look up websites for my favourite TV programmes.

“Initially I was daunted as I simply didn’t know what to do. My son said to have a go and reassured me that I couldn’t break it. But then one window opened up on top of another on the computer screen. I didn’t know what I was doing.”

Through chatting to one of her friends, Betty found out about a Rochdale-based project run by Pride Media – recipients of more than £204,000 from the Big Lottery Fund. Its ‘Never Too Old to do IT’ initiative offers support to people over 50 who want to learn basic skills for computers and the Internet. Betty wasted no time and enrolled on a course. From there she hasn’t looked back.

“I started with a foundation course which was ideal for me as a first-time user. I learnt to master the mouse and keyboard before being taught how to send emails and visit different web pages.

“It’s a great course to do because it’s accessible and informative. I thought it would be scary to learn IT skills but because there were people of a similar age, I didn’t feel intimidated. Learning came much easier to me.”

Older ladies using a computer

Betty now serves as a volunteer mentor, helping others to get online

Betty now knows how to do Internet shopping, write letters and go online to pay her bills.

“I use Google Earth a lot because it’s really great fun to do. I look at far-flung places I’ve been to like Cape Town in South Africa. I also look up hotels that I might want to go to on holiday. It keeps my brain active and I love it.

Since enrolling on Pride Media’s courses, Betty has made plenty of new friends and they regularly go out for meals together. She’s learnt so much that she now passes on her knowledge to others in her role as a volunteer mentor.

“I love helping people out as they’re in the same position I was in when I first came here. It makes me happy to see how they can develop and learn.”

Project development officer Jonathan Burns says, “Older people often feel isolated and there was really not much capacity in the Rochdale area for older people to learn IT skills in an informal setting. There were a lot of accredited courses, but nothing specifically for the over 50s to learn basic skills without having to work towards qualifications.

“Betty is one of our longest-serving mentors. She’s helping more and more people over the age of 50 overcome their IT fears and take advantage of what technology has to offer them. She really is an inspiration.”

On Monday 25 March, BIG is launching new investments for older people. Follow @biglotteryfund on Twitter and use #ageingbetter on the day to join the conversation.

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