Guest blog – Meet one of our joint Internet Champions 2013

This blog was contributed by Janet Tchamani , 55, from Kings Heath, who was crowned joint Internet Champion of the Year in 2013.

I’m so proud and excited to be an Age UK joint Internet Champion! To be chosen for a role I believe in so strongly in puts a great big smile on my face. In this, my first blog for Age UK, I’ll be filling you in on my background and explaining what inspired me to get online.

Janet Tchamani and June Whitfield
Janet Tchamani and June Whitfield

One of the first things people find out about me is that I am bipolar. While I don’t let that define me, it is a fact that’s absolutely central to the story of my journey to becoming one of Age UK’s Internet Champions this year.

I was 50 when I was properly diagnosed, following a series of what I would call mini-breakdowns. I became unable to cope, lost my career and quite a bit more besides. That was when I found myself searching the internet for the first time, and eventually found my way to the brilliant Bipolar UK website. I already had a guiding light in Stephen Fry, one of the judges of the Internet Champion Awards.

I joined an online forum, and ‘met’ some very kind and encouraging fellow-sufferers.  Through the long nights when I was awake and battling despair, my online forum friends were there to talk and to listen, to help me keep the suicidal thoughts at bay, to share a favourite quotation, a joke, a beautiful photo… Suddenly, I was no longer alone.

I learnt to self-manage my condition, and found sources of help to make my life into something really quite beautiful. I jokingly say to people I meet: ‘The only thing I didn’t get from the internet is my husband!’ but there’s a serious meaning behind that. About 80% of my life is spent indoors. So I make sure that within the limits of my life I can be as effective as possible. The internet has been such a lifeline, and in wanting to share that with others, I have set up an IT Club for my neighbours in the sheltered accommodation scheme where we live.

The club is full up these days. Word is getting out that it really is fun, that it’s useful, safe and nobody judges or laughs at you or thinks you’re slow. We’re all on a journey of discovery, sat in front of our computers.

To those who have never tried the internet, I’d say from my heart, ‘Give it a go – you never know when it might come in handy. And maybe sooner than you think.’ I wish everyone an exciting time on their own, personal Journey of Discovery.

Read more about this year’s Internet Champions

Find out more about technology and the internet

Author: Age UK

Age UK is dedicated to helping everyone make the most of later life. In the UK we help more than 7 million older people each year by providing advice, combating loneliness and enabling independence. Locally, we work as part of a network of independent charities which includes Age UK, Age Cymru, Age NI and Age Scotland and over 150 local Age UK partners in England and Wales.

8 thoughts on “Guest blog – Meet one of our joint Internet Champions 2013”

  1. Looking forward to hosting a Spring Online event at our IT Club on 23rd April: 11am-2pm at the Brandwood & Cocksmoor Community Room, Birmingham B14 6SW. Age UK certainly know how to help their Internet Champions get stuck in!

  2. This a message which should be spread far and wide.

    Also I feel srongly that the State should provide this form of contact for those locked into their homes and lives.
    I accept that it is possibly open to abuse but an organisation like Age Concern UK should be able to monitor all applications. Yes I know elderly people shrink from anyhting new p,ossibly beause they are afraid of seeming ‘stupid’ but that could,,with sensitive teaching be overcome.

    I do not think I need to press my case,this lady has shown the way.

    1. Thank you Bath-Knight! I had a very interesting conversation with some local authority staff last night about the value of getting internet connection into our community room, and am hopeful we will win the argument. Staff are so busy, it makes sense to give us the means to deal with some of our needs ourselves. What good sense it would make to have internet in all sheltered housing schemes… Have a good day and weekend, Jan

  3. Thank you Kate! The point about shrinking from new things is an interesting one. The longer I live here, where at 55 I’m one of the youngest residents, the more I understand that the longer you’re alive, and the more changes you go through, the more tired you can become of change (unless you’re an adventurous character, and even adventurers grow weary!), and the more you want a little peace and quiet and stability. Resisting new technology can, I think, be a kind of act of mini-rebellion: people are saying ‘Enough is enough – let me be with what’s familiar to me!’ And I think there is where the true challenge lies. My (very respectful) argument would be that the internet can be calming and give people more of what they love, e.g. plant nursery websites, virtual walks, shopping, gardening hints, puzzles, links to family and friends, photographs of places visited, etc.

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