Getting online in later life

senior woman working on a...

Technology, and in particular the Internet, now form a huge part of our lives, and these days we do everything from communicate with our friends and family to organising our finances on the world wide web. For older people, however, computers and the Internet can seem daunting. If you think computers and the web could benefit your parent or elderly relative and ultimately make their lives a little easier, here's how to get them started.

Setting up
It's unlikely that your relative will need the latest high-powered computer when they're starting out online, so it's best not to spend a fortune in the first instance. Cheap laptops can be bought from as little as £150 and are perfectly adequate for general web browsing. Alternatively, consider a tablet that will work just as well in terms of getting them online.

If they don't already have a broadband connection, it is worth doing some research to find the cheapest option, or speak to their current telephone provider to discuss upgrading. For added help, Simplify Digital offer a free comparison service and, via their freephone 0800 090 1302 number, they can even talk you through the process.

There are plenty of courses available that are specifically aimed at the older generation. Local libraries often run computer training courses, and Age UK offer easy-to-follow training designed to show silver surfers the way. Furthermore, UK Online's website can point the way to courses in 6,000 locations around the country, and even provides an online eLearning platform so that your relative can get started from the comfort of their own home, given a little early guidance from yourself. Other free beginners' courses are available at Go ON UK and the BBC's Webwise. Some of the big high street banks will even offer training for those wishing to manage their accounts online, so it's worth asking what is available.

Techy Tea Party
On 9 September this year, EE is running the National Techy Tea Party Day in conjunction with Age UK. It'll be available at EE stores across the country and is open to everyone wanting to learn more about technology and getting online. Expert staff will be there to help answer questions and help to build confidence when it comes to using technology, and there will be tea and biscuits for all. The larger stores will have seated sessions where one-to-one help and advice is on hand, while the smaller stores are holding drop-in sessions with staff ready to answer questions. Alternatively, EE has materials available to help you throw your own Techy Tea Party, so visit their website or drop into a store for more information.

Online security
While you won't want to scare your relative with tales of online scams and identity theft, it is important that they are safe and secure when going online. Installing antivirus software, and more importantly keeping it up to date is a must, and once your friend or family member is comfortable using the web at a basic level, it is worth making them aware of potential problems, particularly with shopping online and potentially damaging emails such as phishing scams.

How the web can help
Aside from the sheer quantity of information available on the Internet, for elderly people, or those that are suffering health problems or have trouble getting around, it can be invaluable. Banking and shopping online could make life a whole lot easier if bad health makes venturing out tricky, and the world wide web also means they can easily stay in touch with friends and relatives, or even make some new ones. And of course there is plenty in the way of entertainment, whether that be watching movies, listening to music, or playing games.

So encourage your elderly relatives to get online - it could make the world of difference.

Has your elderly relative recently started getting online? What advice would you give to others looking to do the same? Leave your comments below...
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