Access to Technology for Older People Phil Robinson’s research for CGN

Phil Robinson, a CGN volunteer who is also an IT specialist, has recently developed an access to technology questionnaire for older people. This has been completed by CGN users and by people in sheltered housing in Brook Court (6) and Ivycourt (20). Approximately 70 people have been filled in to date – most age 70 or older. Some younger people filled in the questionnaire to compare their results to older peoples

The results haven’t been fully analysed but several themes have emerged. Older people overall are much more frightened of using computers, smart phones and the internet than younger people. There are, of course, good reasons to be concerned about being scammed, hacked, defrauded or even identity theft. If anything younger people are not concerned enough about these risks, but the deep fears that older people have leaves them unable to access services that they would like to use and benefit from. This can include mainstream technologies such as using their debit or credit cards at cash points or making contactless payments. Look at the queues in the local Santander branch in Chorlton of people doing face to face payments or withdrawals rather than using the technology

Some older people questioned insisted that they didn’t use a smart phone, a computer, tablet or the internet and that they had no inclination or need to use them. They would need a lot of persuading to get involved. However, many older people were interested and even had devices that they never used. What such people required was some one-to-one training and support, but this had to be tailored to their specific needs (and limitations), not just generic training on a fixed programme. Being shown how to do things on your smart phone or tablet also needed repeating and practice so that they wouldn’t forget how to do it once the trainer left. To this end, Phil has already given bespoke support to about 15 older people, many of them, CGN members

The killer application for most older people is, on the face of it, quite simple – swapping and viewing photos on line with relatives and friends. However, there are a variety of ways of doing this – via email attachments, WhatsApp, messaging apps or web based apps (eg Google Photos). Other relevant applications include:

  • Online clothes shopping
  • Ordering food online (a lot of older people use the phone based Wilshire Farm Foods who deliver meals to their door)
  • Online news – whilst younger people get their news from social media, older people tend to get it from traditional media (TV & newspapers)

We will continue with getting the views of older people to see what their needs are for in order to support them to make better uses of their smart phones and tablets (or use them for the first time). We are interested in:

  • Focussing on less mobile CGN users, who can rarely get out of the house
  • Look at making more use of Wi-Fi and on demand streaming in such places as sheltered housing lounges
  • Peer mentoring so that there are people who they see regularly who can help top up or reinforce any training given
  • Perhaps setting up a regular Technology Clinic at CGN on Thursday coffee mornings

    Bernard Leach 17-11-17