Silver Surfers

One of the Switch guys from above Refresh was today talking about Christmas and how his 96 year old grandma who lives in Canada extended her wishes on the day via webcam.Hearing James talk about this made me wonder what kind of difference the Internet can make in the life of someone who would be considered to be of the ‘older generation’.As you might imagine, I look at the Internet through the eyes of a mid-twenty year old man; it’s only when I take a step back and look from a different perspective that I see the benefits for an elderly person are just as obvious.

Without a doubt, the main obstacle in the way of the majority of older people gaining access to the Internet is a working computer knowledge.Unfortunately getting on to the Internet requires the use of a PC, but in a generation that wasn’t bought up around computers this can pose a problem.Fortunately there are a number of courses designed specifically for this user demographic - these are usually very cheap to attend and the advice is friendly and unintimidating.

Assuming that this one obstacle can be overcome, the primary use of the Internet for most elderly people will almost certainly be communications.I’m not speaking from personal experience but I imagine that it would be very easy for an elderly person to become fairly isolated; I’ve known of people in their seventies, eighties and nineties who don’t see anybody for days, or even weeks, on end.

The Internet allows the elderly to set themselves up with free Skype accounts so that they can hold an audio or video conversation with friends and family who might live a long distance away.In the case of James’ gran, for example, she was able to see and talk to her entire family in Devon from her armchair in Canada completely free of charge and for as long as she liked; before the Internet this simply wouldn’t have been possible.The majority of people who purchase a webcam in our store would be considered elderly and I think it’s fantastic that a £10 piece of technology can make such a difference.

Sites such as Friends Reunited allow the elderly to get back in touch with friends that they may have lost contact with decades ago and provides another line of communication to the wider world.In a recent study 35% of older Net users said that the Internet had provided them with a wider circle of friends after retirement.Of course, e-mail in general is a fantastic communications tool and maintaining contact in this fashion is infinitely quicker and usually easier than writing a letter.

The Internet can also serve to starve off boredom and keep the mind active in the later years of life.Sites such as Wikipedia provide a whole wealth of information that is literally unending; coupled with billions of websites this window to the world is invaluable.A side point to this is that again, in the aforementioned survey 42% of older people said that as a result of the Internet they were more aware and tolerant to the way that the world is changing.

If you suffer from mobility issues then online shopping can relieve the burden of having to go in to town or out to a large supermarket to get the weekly shop.Those that rely on someone getting their shopping for them may also like the independence and freedom to choose exactly what they want and get it delivered the same day.

Computers and the elderly are two words that are not often mentioned in the same sentence however the potential enrichment that the Internet can bring in to the life of an older person is often worth the effort of overcoming the technical challenges.

It’s a relatively long way off yet but I do hope that in retirement I’ll be able to consider myself a ‘silver surfer’.



About the Author - Chris Holgate works for Refresh Cartridges who supply a wide range of printer cartridges at the UK’s lowest prices.