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Never too old!

6 August 2015

Our ‘Ageing in the UK’ report identifies many areas of interest for all of us in the UK. The digital inclusion summary included the following: “Only a small proportion of those over 65 are what Age Concern call ‘refuseniks’, those who want nothing to do with these digital technologies.” Instead, reasons for lack of social media participation revolve around lack of understanding and fear of the unknown.

Betty Holden

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

Betty Holden, 83, a digital inclusion success story tells us how she progressed to supporting other people looking to get digitally engaged.

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

“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.”

The ‘Ageing in the UK’ report echoes what Betty was feeling, saying that the main barrier to digital inclusion amongst people in later life appears to be:

  • a lack of understanding and confidence with ‘how it works’
  • fear and anxiety of ‘doing something wrong’
  • concern about security online.

Betty found out about a Rochdale-based project run by Pride Media Association (recipients of more than £204,000 Reaching Communities funding from the Big Lottery Fund). Their ‘Never Too Old to do I.T.’ 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.

“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.

“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 said, ““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.”

Betty helping at a PC keyboard

Betty as a volunteer mentor, helping others to get online

Betty’s story is a great example of how funded projects can foster digital (and wider social) inclusion. Our ‘Ageing in the UK’ report summarised that people in later life have more or less the same access to digital as everyone else, but just use it differently; and that they see social media as the least important. It could be suggested that the social media tool developers themselves may need to develop a platform that is more later life user-friendly?

It cannot be assumed that people are not interested in the new or the different just because of their age, we need to take more time to find out why. There can be many practical or psychological barriers to interacting with new technologies, which we experienced users (and developers?) take for granted.

After going through the report I feel that in a world of numerous and varied digital platforms, we all need to remember that to even start reaching out to the digitally excluded that we might need to have an outreach plan that is mainly using telephones, Terrestrial TV, email and… word of mouth!

What first got you interested in the digital world? For me, giving away my age – it was getting a ZX Spectrum in the 80s… although some would argue that was pre-digital.

I’d love to hear your views in the Comments section below…. or just tell me what got you interested in the digital world.

Baba A.
Big Lottery Fund


5 Comments leave one →
  1. 6 August 2015 2:22 pm

    I think your point that digital inclusion is more than a matter of offering a standard package of tech add-ons is particularly important – and also the need to help people develop a blend of different media that works for them. I’ve blogged a piece here

    Looking forward to more!

  2. Big Lottery Fund permalink*
    7 August 2015 8:05 am

    Thank you!

    I read your blog piece and have shared it with our policy team… and thanks for the mention


    Baba A.

  3. 7 August 2015 3:24 pm

    I’ve blogged some further thoughts: Digital inclusion can help address loneliness and #AgeingBetter – if co-designed with older people—if

  4. 10 August 2015 11:33 am

    We do have a scheme running at the moment called Friends Connect but we find it’s the lack of broadband in the Cotswolds rather than the participants fear of digital inclusion that puts them off…..;)


  1. The @BigLotteryFund highlights role of digital technology in #AgeingBetter

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