Age Action computer training opens up a new world for older people – more than 6,000 silver surfers in Galway city and county can attest to that
Age Action is a non-government organisation that promotes a positive approach to ageing and strives to provide better services to older people in our communities.As part of this,
BY ROBERT GRACE
Age Action centres around the country provide ‘getting started’ classes in the use of computers and the internet to people over 55.
The programme is part of a campaign against digital exclusion and has been running for eight years, which have seen more than 6,000 in Galway alone avail of the service.
Classes take place in libraries, community centres, family resource centres and housing complexes for older people around the county.
Niamh Hennelly is a Development Officer at Age Action’s offices in Galway. “The computer classes we provide can open up a whole new world for older people. Our volunteers teach people the basics of computer use,” she explains.
“We begin with teaching students how to switch on a computer and progress to surfing the internet and sending and receiving emails. Beginners can progress to improver classes which involve teaching them how to use social media among other things.
“Many of the people in these classes have their own Facebook account,” she says. “However, more are interested in learning how to internet shop, send emails and use Skype. Many older people now use the internet to keep in contact with family members that have left the country.”
The computer classes in Galway run for two hours a week over a four week period. All the tutors involved are volunteers of all ages who come and share their skills with older people. They provide one-to-one training to ensure people get the best guidance possible.
Imelda O’Sullivan is one of those who recently began taking computer classes with Age Action West. “I got a present of a computer from my brother some time ago but I had no idea how to use it,” she says.
“First I learned all about Google and how to navigate the internet in general. Now I am constantly emailing and soon I will move on to learning how to Skype. I have family in England and China and I could not afford to keep ringing them on the telephone,” she explains.
Imelda is particularly grateful for the one-to-one training provided by Age Action, and is quick to mention her own tutor, James, for his efforts. “I took a computer class a few years ago and I found that everyone in it was streets ahead of me,” she explains. “With James, I can move entirely at my own pace and go back over things a number of times if necessary.”
Age Action provides several other worthwhile services for older members of the community. Irish and Spanish lessons, reminiscence training, book clubs, creative writing classes and care and repair services are just some of the initiatives on offer.
The achievements of Imelda and thousands more like her is testament to both the quality of Age Action’s training programme and to the manner in which digital inclusion can stimulate the lives of older people in the community.
But as with many others involved in the voluntary sector, the Getting Started initiative is run on stretched funding.
The Department of Communication, Energy and Natural Resources provides grants as part of its digital inclusion programme and Age Action has also been involved in a fund raising initiative with Innocent Smoothie Company.
The ‘Big Knit’ campaign encouraged supporters to knit small woolly hats that fit around the top of the company’s Smoothie bottles.
Then, 25 cent from every bottle sold is donated to Age Action and campaigners have targeted a figure of 65,000 little hats for this year. While these initiatives are important fundraisers, Age Action welcomes contributions from the general community.