We'd like to introduce you to Anne, Leonard and Hazel who started out using computers in later life and haven't looked back
Anne English, 70, from Southsea, Hampshire
Anne says that before she learnt IT skills, she was ‘an old-fashioned lady, who enjoyed jigsaw puzzles and writing hand written letters’ and that Her husband encouraged her to learn how to use a computer: ‘I was placed in front of the machine and expected to understand it! I don’t think I’ve ever been so scared of a piece of equipment.’
She decided to sign up for IT classes at her local Age UK in Portsmouth, and ‘with the superb help, patience, and knowledge of the instructors – I began to use the internet’.
Now Anne uses the internet for email and shopping, and also makes use of accounting spreadsheets to help her husband with his home business.
‘I know I’ve only touched the tip of the iceberg of technical knowledge, ‘ she says, ‘but I’m amazed that I’ve been able to learn so much.’ She is now the helpful ‘elf’ at the Bradbury Centre's beginners IT class in Portsmouth, on hand if anyone gets into difficulty.
Anne believes computing is especially useful for those in later life. ‘With the aid of this wonderful technology, we might even be able to stay in our homes longer,’ she suggests. ‘We can shop and bank – two essentials – we can talk to friends, look up health information and, above all, we may be able to keep our independence longer – something so vital to us golden oldies.’
Leonard Wells, 68, from Rossendale, Lancashire
Leonard found his computer frustrating at first: 'I wanted to take it back after two weeks, I got so irritated by it!' As he explains, 'when you buy a car, it doesn't come with instructions on how to drive it. It's the same with computers.'
But he managed to connect to the internet, and then, interested in his family tree, Leonard googled his late grandfather's name. 'I was almost convinced I was wasting my time, but it brought up an article in a Wigan newspaper from 1939 which mentioned my grandfather, Lowden Wells. I just sat there in utter amazement like Aladdin and the lamp!'
Since then, Leonard has been a true convert. Using a ‘computing for idiots’ textbook and by searching the web for tips and advice, he has taught himself far more than just the basics. He uses the net to subscribe to newspapers from around the world, is an active blogger, and uploads video clips to YouTube. He even met his girlfriend online.
Leonard's advice to newcomers? 'Grasp the nettle! If I, as a 68-year-old typing with two fingers can do it, I am sure you can too! It's great fun, and awesome in its scope and potential for the future. You can find out anything – and I do mean anything – day or night.'
Hazel Miller, 83, from Scunthorpe, Lincolnshire
Hazel bought her first computer 17 years ago, 'after my husband died, when I was feeling a bit lonely’. Her daughter got a computer for her sons when they were at school, and ‘she suggested that I get one too'.
In 2000, her grandson helped her get online. She then took courses through her local council to learn more about using office programmes and the internet. She says, ‘I went partly for the company, but mainly because I like learning new things’.
Hazel doesn’t drive, but not only does her weekly supermarket shop online and gets it delivered, but also all her Christmas shopping too. She admits she’d be lost without her computer and no longer feels lonely or isolated, as she can keep up with friends and family around the world, and has made many new online companions through chatrooms.
‘It’s made a great difference, because instead of sitting at home watching television every night, I’m sat talking to friends. I made friends through a chatroom and we go on holiday three times a year. A few years ago I had a fantastic 80th birthday party down in Paignton, Devon, with friends from all over the country.’
Age UK digital inclusion activities
If you’re interested in improving your IT skills, or know someone who wants to take that first step, Age UK has plenty of options to choose from. Many of our local Age UKs and Age Concerns run computer training courses for older people. And working with the Digital Inclusion Network, we’ve set up community projects across the UK.