Could you be our 2015 digital champion?
Published on 03 December 2014 12:00 PM
Actress June Whitfield has joined us in our search to find our Digital Champion of the Year for 2015, with the aim of inspiring the 4.8 million older people who have never been online, to give it a try.
Age UK is looking for an older person whose life has been changed for the better by learning to use digital technology, whether it's finding long lost family members on Facebook, buying and selling on eBay, listening to music or keeping in touch with old friends via Skype.
The aim of the search is to demonstrate how easy it can be to get to grips with technology and the benefits being ‘digital' can offer.
Age UK ambassador June Whitfield CBE, who will be hosting the awards, said: ‘There are endless opportunities online that everyone should experience. One of the great advantages is being able to keep in contact with family members and friends no matter where they are.
We want to hear from you!
‘Age UK's Digital Champion award is a fantastic way to celebrate some of the many people who have embraced all things digital and are shining examples to others. If you're passionate about being online and have a digital journey to share we want to hear from you!'
Recent studies have shown there has been a take up of Internet usage across all ages. However, there are still currently 6million people in the UK who've never been online, with 80 % (4.8 million) of those aged 65 and over. In a recent survey, some of the main reasons cited by older people for not being online were that they didn't need the Internet (58%) and a lack of skills (21%).
Previous winners of the award, chosen by judges including Stephen Fry, were James Perry and Jan McCarthy-Tchamani, who will also be part of the judging panel this year. They have been helping people to understand the importance of getting online.
‘Being online has been life-saving for me'
Jan, 57, from King's Heath in the West Midlands, was an English teacher in a school in Birmingham. She was diagnosed with bipolar 7 years ago, following a series of mini-breakdowns and lost her career. Fortunately, as a teacher, Jan had learned invaluable online skills and found this provided a way of communicating when she couldn't talk to anyone.
Jan said: ‘Being online has been life-saving for me: I joined an online forum, met some very kind and encouraging fellow-sufferers and was no longer alone. The Internet offers so much to everyone - whether it's coping with an illness, learning new skills or saving money, everyone can benefit from being online.'
Jan recently helped a friend set up a company to provide a mobile IT ‘clinic' for older people and had her first novel, typed on her computer, published this year.
‘If you want to do something, don't let age worry you'
James, 92, from Sheerness in Kent, started using the web at the age of 89. He has a passion for photography and is a member of a camera club. His fellow members told him how they were using the Internet to share images and stay in touch and James wanted to see what all the fuss was about - he set about finding local IT support to help him take his first steps online.
James said: ‘The Internet is a part of my everyday life. Getting online has opened up avenues of communication that I thought were closed forever, such as being able to speak with friends in Australia.
‘Living alone, I always had to rely on the telephone but there's nothing that you can't do virtually now, particularly with things like Skype, which mean you can not only talk to people but you can see them. If you want to do something, don't let age worry you. I'm convinced if I can learn then anyone can.'
The Age UK Digital Champion of the Year and runners-up will become ambassadors for Age UK, helping to inspire and support other older people across the nation to get online.
Lucy Hastings, Lead for Digital Inclusion at Age UK, said: ‘Some people may not be initially interested in getting online but there literally is something for everyone, whether it be contact with long lost friends, listening to old music collections, reading the latest news, or buying a bargain and having it delivered to your door.
‘Our Digital Champion of the Year award celebrates older people who have taken that leap and can be an inspiration to others.'
How to enter
If you're over 55 years old, you can nominate yourself or be nominated. More information about entering can be found at www.ageuk.org/champion. The competition closes 30 January 2015. The Awards will be presented on Friday 20 March at a ceremony in London.
Age UK locally helps thousands of people in later life gain skills and confidence to use the Internet. For more information about support to get online in your area call 0800 169 65 65 or find a computer training course near you.