Technology has advanced so rapidly in recent decades that it can be an intimidating task to keep up to date with how to use the various new devices and accompanying software. While there are plenty of older users who have no difficulty navigating new technology, much like their younger counterparts, there will always be some that struggle to get the most out of their devices.
Simple things that many of us take for granted - like using a smartphone or tablet can feel beyond the reach of some older users. With access to banks and local services increasingly moving online, there’s a danger of society leaving behind those not moving with the digital times.
To ensure that the older generation doesn't become detached from the digital world, a fantastic new initiative has sprung-up in west London. Founded by Systems + Smiles in conjunction with Open Age, the IT Education for Senior People events are staffed by volunteers and are 100% free to attend.
Having participated recently at two sessions - one at WeWork in Paddington, the other at New Horizons community centre in Chelsea - I can testify to the impact even small amounts of advice can have.
Over a large cup of tea and even larger cookies, during the first class, I sat with a woman and talked about email and web browsing. As a desktop Mac user, her own computer couldn’t attend, so my own MacBook was a useful replacement. Going over the basic functions of Mail, it was rewarding to see what she already knew and revealed other things she had yet to learn.
At New Horizons, I helped a delightfully eccentric Swiss lady get to grips with her smartphone. As the proud owner of two Doro models, the smart version was proving tricky. Initially, I was worried my own lack of experience with Android devices would render my direction useless. However, I soon learned that even a basic understanding of devices I was less familiar with was invaluable to those that attended. On the upside, I walked away with a few new skills myself.
Elsewhere during both classes, the rooms buzzed with surprising and delightful experiences. The volunteers ranged from people taking time out of their working day at the shared space, to clients of Kevin Fortune, the brains behind the events.
Kevin is the founder of Systems + Smiles, a tech support company that helps make the IT problems of individuals and organisations disappear. He’s long held the belief that giving time back to communities is important, and there are few better ways for savvy generations to do so than helping seniors with modern devices.
Thanks to the support of WeWork, the classes are a regular occurrence at their 2 Eastbourne Terrace location. Not only is it within easy reach of an active local community of older people, but it’s also readily populated with precisely the kind of folks capable of sharing all sorts of digital knowledge.
The decision to partner with Open Age becomes clear with a look at the organisation’s mission statement: ‘We work…to enable anyone aged 50 or older to sustain their physical and mental fitness, maintain an active lifestyle and develop new and stimulating interests.’ Clearly this combination of causes and ambitions is proving fruitful.
Marie, a regular workshop attendee, recently offered some feedback on the classes, “You and all volunteers working with you, managed to change learning how to use IT devices to our benefit, to [a] pleasant experience.
“Yes, it is learning with smiles 🙂”
Visit https://systemsandsmiles.co.uk/events for details on the next free digital learning events for seniors
Photos by Kerry Mattey