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. Continue reading “Guest blog – Meet one of our joint Internet Champions 2013”

Guest blog – Internet Champion of the Year 2013

This blog was contributed by Brenda O’Mulloy, 83, from Slough, who was crowned joint Internet Champion of the Year in 2012.

Internet Champion 2013
Left to right: Internet Champion, Brenda O’Mulloy; Actress, June Whitfield and Internet Champion, Keith Patterson.

As Age UK’s Internet Champion of 2012, it’s has been a fantastic year. There was the prestige of winning of course, followed by the whirlwind excitement of being broadcast live on BBC radio, speaking at high profile conferences and events and being interviewed by a variety of newspapers and magazines all with an aim of extolling the virtues of using the internet in later life.

At the age of 75 my son bought me a computer, hooked me up with Internet access and effectively changed my life.  After moving away from my friends and family and the passing of my husband, I found I had no friends locally, my family lived 200 miles away and I felt cut off.  The computer was a real lifeline.  It enabled me to stay connected, initially I started off by sending emails but gradually this evolved to include Facebook, Skype and MSN Messenger. Continue reading “Guest blog – Internet Champion of the Year 2013”

Itea and Biscuits

This blog was contributed by Geraldine Bedell, Editor of Gransnet, the social networking site for grandparents.

It’s Monday morning and on the technology floor of Peter Jones department store in London, 10 people in their seventies and eighties are poring over tablets, examining smartphones and asking questions about digital cameras.

They’re here because it’s the opening day of Itea and Biscuits, Age UK’s week-long focus on digital inclusion, and the store has made a number of its staff available to talk to members of Kensington and Chelsea Age UK. Some of the older people who’ve turned up to find out about technology are complete novices; others have arcane questions about apps versus browsers or the way Chrome stores their passwords. This small group demonstrates, once again, that it’s unwise to make assumptions about anything, including internet use, on the basis of age.

A couple of mornings later, I found myself at the launch of a report on social exclusion from the International Longevity Centre (ILC), backed by Age UK. The report highlighted rising levels of deprivation among people aged 50 to 59 – which is worrying for those who care about the whole population being online, because we already know that social exclusion is very closely related to digital exclusion. Those who aren’t using the internet are poorer, live in worse housing and are more isolated. And it’s a vicious circle: digital exclusion further cuts people off from relationships, as well as from information and services.

Not being online is likely to have a negative impact on quality of life, probably even more so in the years to come. Some of the ‘it’s-not-for-me’ resistance that can be found among older people needs unpicking (when people say they aren’t interested, are they really worried about internet fraud, or the cost of equipment and broadband, or looking foolish, or perhaps a proud sense of having always managed perfectly well without all this stuff?) Continue reading “Itea and Biscuits”