Editor’s note: In this guest post, Anna Preston, a consultant with Live-In Care Hub, a UK non-profit organization, discusses how we can help the elderly better understand the Internet.
By Anna Preston (Live-In Care Hub, a UK non-profit)
The internet and all its wonders hold no fear for the younger generation, but for older people, computers can be very hard to comprehend. Those who grew up in the analog world can find it difficult learning to use something which must seem like science fiction.
As frightening and confusing as new technology can be, any fears are far outweighed by the potential benefits and enjoyment which can be derived once you learn how to use it. Older people who may be feeling isolated from friends and family can find new worlds of communication opening up through Skype, facetime, TikTok or Facebook.
If you’re caring for an older person who wants to learn all about the internet but maybe feeling a bit apprehensive, you could start by explaining a little about the great advances made in-home help technology and how it can help to supplement live-in care services. Then tell them how the internet can help them with shopping, banking or general entertainment. After this, just grab a laptop, tablet or smartphone and read on for ideas on how you can help them get started.
Helping with online shopping
More retail is happening online, and the recent coronavirus pandemic lockdown has pushed many retailers to increase the provisions they provide as an online business. Whilst it’s still a treat to visit the shops and caregivers will regularly escort clients on days out, you could explain how quick and easy online shopping is. From major supermarkets to small, independent shops all over the world, whatever you want can be ordered, paid for and delivered to your door. Or you can explain about click and collect services where you choose a place where you can conveniently collect your items.
It would be sensible where possible to advise someone new to online shopping to either pay for goods by credit card or to set up a separate bank account which can be used just for online shopping and which contains only a small cache of funds. This is the best way to keep the bulk of your money safe. The Money Advice service has lots of tips on how to shop safely online.
Helping set up an email account
This is one of the first things to do as an email account can be used for shopping – retailers usually need an email address to send confirmation of a transaction – and it’s a good way of contacting family and friends as well as companies. The most popular email service providers are Google (Gmail), Yahoo and Microsoft’s Outlook.
You can find comprehensive information on how to set up an email account here.
Helping with online banking and managing household bills
Many older people are understandably nervous about having their personal and financial details online, so to make them feel secure get them to make an appointment to speak to someone at their bank who can explain how it all works. They can help seniors to set up initial online accounts with secure passwords. With online banking, they can check their balance daily if they wish to help them feel in control.
To manage household bills online most companies or organizations can be contacted via their websites where you can set up accounts.
Helping to socialize online
This is the internet’s big draw. Younger people especially communicate more through the web it seems than face to face! There’s no doubt that it opens up a whole new world for those who may be feeling isolated as there are so many options like messaging apps, video calling and of course social media.
WhatsApp is the most popular free messaging and video calling app and easy to download to a smartphone or tablet. It’s probably easier to use than Zoom or Skype which need a Wi-Fi signal rather than a mobile one. Facebook and Twitter can also be accessed on mobile phones.
There are numerous online exercise and keep-fit classes, many of them free, ranging from gentle Tai Chi to spinning to Pilates. Search YouTube, Google Play, or Apple Store for online exercise classes. Some local authorities or health centers run free online fitness classes.
Whilst companion care can certainly provide a good level of social interaction, making use of online communication tools can help elderly people stay in regular contact with friends and family who they might not otherwise see for a long time.
Helping with hobbies!
Years ago, if you wanted to find out how to do something or how to research something you had to buy an instruction manual or go to the library. But nowadays most people automatically turn to the internet for information. Whether you want to know how to crochet a granny square, make a perfect Yorkshire Pudding or build your own garden shed the internet has it all at the touch of a button.
YouTube is the go-to platform if you want to know how to do anything. You name it and someone, somewhere in the world, has made a video showing you how. There are online resources for any hobby or interest you may have. BBC Food has lots of easy recipe ideas. Gardeners can find out information about any garden or plant-related issue any time and if you have always wanted to study your family history there are numerous places to start. Some like Ancestry are subscription based while some are free like FreeBMD for basic information. The National Archives has a treasured and comprehensive collection ranging from prison records to census records to military service records and everything in-between.
Helping learn new skills
You’re never too old to learn something new. Many older people long to acquire the qualification they never got the chance to get at school or to further their education as a means to starting a new career. The Open University is the most well-known online tool for distance learning with a myriad of courses available for mature students. Then there’s the University of the Third Age (u3a) whose motto is learn, laugh, live. This UK-wide organization is for people who have retired and who are looking for new ways to socialize, meet people in person or online and perhaps take up new hobbies or learn new skills. Check out their website here for details on what they do and how to join.
From watching TV and films or listening to radio to contacting a GP or ordering new prescriptions, the internet is a world of convenience at your fingertips. Getting an older person to benefit from what the online world has to offer them may give them a new lease on life and a feeling that they are moving with the times.
Anna Preston is a consultant with Live-In Care Hub, a not-for-profit organization committed to raising the quality of elderly care in the UK by giving everyone the opportunity to be cared for in their own home, where they can still feel part of their community.