Age is no barrier to learning digital skills


​Joyce Lamont, manager of Dalmuir Online, tells how her Silver Surfers have a head start on the younger generation 

TFN Guest's photo

26th August 2015 by TFN Guest 2 Comments

Keeping abreast of technology is an impossible task. And folk get stressed thinking they need to do so. But they don’t. In the same way you don’t need to know how a TV works to watch it, you don’t need to know how PC works to access the internet. It’s the first lesson for fledgling surfers: forget about the technology – just look at the screen as you would a TV.

Same goes for different gadgets: they are all in principle the same: a screen, with keys. Again just like a TV. 

The problem is we assume people have a certain amount of basic knowledge of the web. The vast majority of people do but what happens to them who haven’t?

Here, at the resource centre, we first set-up the Silver Surfers to teach older people how to get online. We started with the basics – how to send an email, how to surf the web and explained the basics of secure payments and transactions online.

That was back in 2006 and since then we’ve found younger people were increasingly coming to the centre asking if we offered online access. At the time we didn’t but it became apparent it was something we should be doing.

Now, due to popular demand, we do both. We help all ages and all abilities get online but also offer wifi access and a bank of PCs and tablets are also available to be used in the centre.

Clydebank has a high level of unemployment. People have had to adapt to the demise of shipbuilding and engineering in the area. About 20 years ago there was a rush of people wanting to retrain because there were no jobs for their skills like welding and steel fitting. Many of them retrained in IT or some form of technology, despite being middle aged or older, proving that age is no barrier to learning.

Actually older people pick up IT skills just as fast as younger people. Young people have the advantage of picking IT skills up daily, that’s why they appear to be more able. It’s a bit like living in France when learning the language: you are surrounded by it so will inevitably pick some of it up, even without trying. I tell this to our senior members. Almost all of them think because young folk are tech savvy it in some ways puts them to shame as they should be older and bolder. But learning rarely is instinctive. It’s all about training and experience.

A big part of what we are now doing is related to people on benefits. People come to us saying they are confused how to apply for benefits online, how to look for jobs on the government website or where to access information about entitlement.

They get panicky about it because they’ll get their benefits cut if they don’t regularly apply for jobs. But many don’t have the skills or the access to the internet and some have ended up having their benefits cut as a result.

So despite the majority of the population now being online, it is a paradox more resource centres like ours are needed to support the significant minority who don’t have the ability to get connected.  

16th September 2015 by PaulJo

High... ...and Congratulations on Your seriously worthwhile Project. Just stumbled across Your Path, (mouseyBrown&Grey; Surfin'), and Wonderin wondered whether You have any Partnership/Affiliate/FellowTraveller arrangements in Ireland, North or South? Or even just some Linx to Click!...? I'm 52, recoverin' from Throat Cancer, in receipt of D.L.A., Lookin' to develop my Cyber Skills Set, and hopefully return to the World of Work after a 10yr. long BellJar-like State of Stasis. Any advice/assistance much appreciated. Cheers & AllTheBest ~~~ PaulJo $

16th September 2015 by PaulJo