Seniors overcome technology fears to get computer savvy in an online world
Originally posted by Kylie Bartholomew @ abc.net.au
Liz Peters is one of millions of older Australians who struggle to use a computer.
Given her "non-existent" computer skills, the 74-year-old grandmother was chuffed to have mastered the skill of sharing photos from her tablet.
"I know how to share and then you put the address in or the name or the phone number, so I'm very proud of myself," Ms Peters said.
A survey of 3,600 Australians aged over 50 found that:
9 per cent did not have access to a digital device
11 per cent did not have any form of internet access
Those in the city are more likely to have a home internet connection than those in regional areas
Those with limited or no experience using digital devices preferred face-to-face learning
Three quarters of those who didn't use the internet at all were aged over 70
A smart phone is the most common device used by older Australians
SOURCE: The Office of the eSafety Commissioner
She took part in a computer literacy course on the Sunshine Coast aimed at helping older Australians become more knowledgeable and confident in the online world.
Her newfound skill "opens up a whole new world" of independence and communication with loved ones.
"I've sent my grandson about six [photographs] last night, he's autistic so he'll love looking at these, Ms Peters said.
"And I can take photos on WhatsApp and send that … I've got a granddaughter at boarding school in Spain so it's cheap for her and cheap for me.
"I'm becoming more brave in exploring what my phone will do — that's taken me a long time."
The federally-funded Be Connected program is one of many free programs of its kind around the country.
Topics include understanding the different types of devices, safety, shopping, Wi-Fi, data and apps.
Research from the Office of the eSafety Commissioner found that of Australia's 8 million people aged over 50, just three in 10 had a high level of digital literacy and that decreased with age.
Gaining, maintaining connectivity
Gregory Housego, 64, said turning up for his second workshop was a no-brainer.
By his own admission, he functioned "poorly" in the online world and that lack of knowledge meant travelling to pay bills and run errands face-to-face.
"I really can't exist in modern society without the input that the electronic media gives you, you can't do banking, government services, all these things," Mr Housego said.
"Unless you're giving up on the world out there, you really have to try and maintain this connectivity."
Like a "sponge", he became absorbed in the workshop, hungry to learn word processing and more about the internet while gaining a better understanding of his smart phone.
He was now prepared to embrace, within reason, a world he had previously ignored.
"I see so many people doing the Facebook thing and they take too much time on it — I see some friends spend far too much time embracing it," he said.
Another participant, Robyn Baker, said she "struggles" with the Facebook but wanted to learn more about online shopping and have her computer run more smoothly.
"I do the best I can, but it needs a lot of cleaning up and emails that you don't really want, I find it hard to unsubscribe to them it just doesn't seem to work," Ms Baker said.
Beth Aldrich delivers the Be Connected program through cancer support organisation Bloomhill.
She said what were basic skills for many could be daunting for those without the appropriate knowledge and understanding.
"I have to remember to ask if they have an email address because you have to have an email address to start with and we have had the odd person who's come and they're starting right from the beginning," Ms Aldrich said.
"We have people who are already on the internet and Facebook and just wanting to get more skills and then we do have the people who are starting from scratch.
"Either their husband used to do all the IT stuff, paying the bills online and they are no longer with them and so they have to suddenly learn how to use the computer."
Ms Aldrich said fear was a major factor which stifled learning.
Janet Paed, 62, said taking the first step was the hardest.
"It's made me not as frightened, like I was frightened to press that button in case something happened and I lost everything, so I'm getting more confident," Ms Paed said.
She said learning in a group environment had felt more supportive than muddling through on her own.
"If I try and do it at home, I find I get really frustrated because I don't have anybody there to ask questions to," she said.
"You learn something and you think, 'Oh I've got it', and then the computer or somebody inside there decides to change how it's all formatted and I'm back to square one again."
Program mentor Julie Downham said mastering a skill which was once thought to be unachievable gave confidence and a sense of accomplishment.
"In the last one [workshop] there was a lady who knew nothing and so I sat with her for two hours and I absolutely loved that ... and after a while she didn't need me really."
Confronting and 'embarrassing'
Daphne Dunphy, 79, said turning up to the workshop was confronting.
"It's a bit embarrassing, I suppose not being able to do the things and stumbling through it, but it's good to be able to learn the skills though," Ms Dunphy said.
"For me, I don't really like not being able to do things and I have to get over that and challenge it and know that it's going to be heaps better once I've dealt with that."
Ms Dunphy had a desktop computer at home but wanted to be more competent, including exploring photography and "cut and paste".
"I know from past experience that anything that's really difficult, I always look at other people and say, 'If they learnt how to do it then I can too', and once you've got over that hurdle it's actually quite strengthening," Ms Dunphy said.
Ms Peters agreed.
"I don't want to always go to someone and say, 'Can you show me how to do...?'.
"I like to be self-reliant — I love my independence.
"Your phone or your computer won't explode.
"If it doesn't want to do something, it's not right and you're not pressing the right buttons."