From checking their emails to taking pictures of their grandchildren, senior citizens were yesterday championing technology at the launch of a project to ensure Northern Ireland’s rising older population is not left behind in the digital age.
Those involved in the Big Lottery-funded digital inclusion project, run by Advice NI, were joined by Junior Ministers Jennifer McCann and Jonathan Bell at Belfast Castle to hear more about plans to run iPad classes in sheltered housing and private care homes.
Michael Rafferty, a former maintenance worker with Translink, had never used a computer four years ago but now owns an iPad and said he couldn’t do without it.
“Learning to use the internet and technology is letting you live in the twenty-first century,” he told the News Letter. “You’re never too old to learn. I am exploring it and enjoying it at the minute. It means you’re not being left behind.”
The 75-year-old vice-chair of the Belfast branch of retired union members, who now lives in Dunmurry Fold, said having an email address and the ability to check messages on the iPad ensures he keeps on top of all his correspondence.
The Supporting Active Engagement project recruits volunteers to become “Internet Champions” who run iPad classes and teach older people basic computer skills, including how to get online and how to access information regarding their rights and entitlements.
The scheme will be supported over the next five years by a Big Lottery grant of £500,000.
Sixty-three year-old Irene Kee, of Ardreagh Fold, is at the beginning of a course and said – while initially wary of using the iPad – she is looking forward to finding out what she can use it for and would encourage others to get involved.
Frank Hewitt, Big Lottery Fund NI Chair, said the project will help to transform the lives of older people who are most at risk of isolation, depression, mental and physical ill health and low self-esteem.
For more information, call Advice NI on 028 9064 5919 or visit www.adviceni.net