Digital inclusion: older people less isolated, but support needs to continue!
The Wales Co-operative Centre has published “Digital Inclusion: Stronger Communities”, a policy paper that examines the impact of digital exclusion on people in Wales and argues for a continuing, specific digital inclusion project. Today we look at how people who are digitally excluded can be isolated, and how Victor got online and overcame his isolation.
These days, more and more people are using social media to support and develop relationships with family and friends. If people can’t use the Internet then they are isolated. They won’t see news or photos and they will be excluded from the daily lives of some of their family or social groups.
Older people, disabled people and carers are disproportionately likely to be digitally excluded. They may also find it physically harder to get out and see people face to face. Research shows that isolation is associated with poor health and mortality in older people: digital inclusion can give people a better, longer life.
Victor is a retired technician who acquired his computer skills from courses run by Deudraeth Cyf as part of the Digidol Gwynedd Project.
He has always been interested in collecting old photographs and recording local history. He regularly communicated with friends and fellow collectors by phone and sent and received copies of old photographs by mail. Since he was introduced to computers he is now able to send and receive messages, photos and documents by e-mail and can use the Internet carry out research on his favourite hobby. He is also a regular user of Skype which he uses to keep in touch with family and friends.
Victor says, “These courses have allowed me to communicate with friends and family all over the world, in a way that I never thought possible.
“Prior to this, the cost of telephoning and postage meant I had to limit how and when I communicated with my friends, but by using e-mail and Skype that cost has virtually disappeared. Following the courses, I bought a laptop and installed broadband at home. It is something I thought I would never do but it has made a great difference to my life and I would recommend it to everyone.”
Getting online has literally transformed Victor’s life, but there are tens of thousands more like him. If more older people are to overcome isolation and live richer and healthier lives as a result, digital inclusion support needs to continue.