There is a fascinating programme developed in Oxford which I would hope could be a blueprint for elsewhere in which students volunteer time to help older people move into the digital age.
Students at Oxford Brookes University have been sharing their expertise by running computer classes for the over-50s.
The free classes, at Northway Community Centre, Headington, are organised by Age Concern Oxfordshire and the university.
The idea is to bring different generations together and strengthen community ties, as well as sharing computer skills with older members of society.
Edmund Ogunleye, 67, from Headington, is among those who has been taking the class, receiving help from 18-year-old Tom Smith, a first-year history student.
Mr Ogunleye regularly receives emails from his extended family in Nigeria and Canada, and before starting the eight-week course, had no idea how to respond.
He said: “These days, no matter what level of education you have, if you don’t have knowledge of computers, you can’t participate.
“All the time I have only been opening my email – I can write and send them now.”
The eight student volunteers have been working under the supervision of Ahmed Rahman, Age Concern’s IT development worker and Northway’s IT manager, and are giving one-to-one tutorials during the course.
Deputy chief executive of Age Concern Oxfordshire, Penny Thewlis, said only 38 per cent of people over the age of 65 had ever used the internet, and just 28 per cent had a computer at home.
She said: “Older people are missing out very significantly on things which could make life easier and more enjoyable.
“Working together with Oxford Brookes we hope to be able to change this.
“It is never too late to learn.”
Those who have signed up to the course range from complete beginners to people who have some knowledge of computers.
The course covers digital photography, word-processing, desktop publishing as well as surfing the internet, sending e-mails and web design.
Tom Smith has also been tutoring 86-year-old John Goodwin, from Headington, a former navigational staff pilot with the RAF.
Mr Smith said: “John has had a computer for 15 years and never surfed the world wide web, which really shocked me as the possibilities of the internet are endless.
“Working with John over the past few weeks has been fantastic, allowing me to develop his IT skills, while also making a new friend.”
And the extra knowledge of how to use the facilities has already paid off for some of the older people.
Carl Jacobs, 72, from Headington, is now in touch with a cousin in New Zealand whom he had not spoken to in years, who found Mr Jacobs’s details and got in touch.
For details of the scheme, call Age Concern on 01235 849400.
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