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”