I am not stating that getting to grips with technology, and learning to be active on the Internet is the cure all for the mental and social issues that people can be faced with in old age. However, I do believe that embracing technology and trying to gain computing skills can go a long way to alleviate them. So if you are a care worker, someone who volunteers on a home visiting scheme, or you may be aware of an older person living in your neighbour hood. Please bring this blog to their attention by showing them or printing it off. One of the most poignant problems of ageing can be loneliness and isolation, and more so in the Winter months.
Lets look at the day of someone say typically in their seventies, no family, no friends to speak of. If they are lucky, have the odd neighbour or two who checks on them very occasionally. They can be suffering from one or two ailments, ones which can cause stiffness in the body joints, or produce pain on the first steps of movement. Then niggles throughout the day despite any medication they may take. Due to this, they use the morning to tackle the daily routine of household chores, and if the weather is not too bracing, they will venture down to the local shops to purchase necessary provisions.
They may engage in some polite exchanges with the shop assistants or owners, other than that, there is not a soul to speak to. That’s how it remains for the rest of the day, unless they have to make the odd call to their Doctor’s Surgery, or Local Council. TV and radio can be a distraction for only a certain amount of time. And for most people in this situation, afternoons are difficult, but the evening and the night can be an eternity. If you have no one to speak to or nothing to interact with. Time can flit between boredom and depressive feelings into the very early hours.
This day could be so different, if they could learn just a few IT skills and had a computing device within the home. Most of the activities I mention don’t require our older person to have a large pot of money, as a lot of services can be accessed on the Internet for free. For a start household chores could be broken up with looking at e-mail and glancing at newspapers online. Being able to send an e-mail, could lead them to building a relationship with their local shop owner. For example they could arrange to to send a daily request for essential items to be put to one side for collection. Or the shop owner or assistant could deliver them if the weather is particularly bad. Not only does this make it convenient for our older person, but if an e-mail is not sent, it could be seen as an alarm that something is not quite right.
Knowing how to navigate and search the Internet can also play a fundamental part of their day. After the trip to the shops they can sit down with a cup of tea and look at the Council website, to find out what developments are taking place in their local community. Council sites will give news about neighbourhood changes or advertise meetings and courses at community centres. You can often report acts of vandalism and graffiti to council owned property via an email or link they provide. Or if you are in a council owned home you can send an email request for any repairs you need.
Afternoon and night time activity, can be alternated between TV viewing and the Internet. After having a evening meal playing a game online helps combat the sluggish feelings that can be experienced, it also exercises the mind. If gaming (I also mean traditional pursuits such as Sudoku, Chess, Jigsaws, Mahjong) isn’t for you then other options are reading. The Internet holds a never ending Library, and a huge amounts can be accessed for free. Particularly, if you have always wanted to read something classical, by the Brontes or Dickens. If reading and games are not your idea of entertainment, you could look at subscribing with a service like LoveFilm or Netflix. £4.99, or £5.99 a month may sound a lot, but each own a vast categories of TV and film that can be streamed down to a computing device.
In terms of other web past times, you can do armchair travelling. Most popular destinations over the world now have web cams stationed and active in their cities or places of historical interest. Lets also highlight, TV programmes like Winterwatch, which have live web cams, where they ask viewers to keep an eye on what’s happening. Free programmes such as Google Earth, will also give you 360 degree panoramic photographic views. So you can look at the top of a volcano, or tour the Sistine Chapel. Again all this is free to access.
There are many more possibilities I can present when engaging with the Internet. I do think though with ideas I have proposed through learning just a few IT skills. Older people who are isolated like I have described, would have a more meaningful and enjoyable day to day existence. Some people in this situation also lack the courage and confidence to socialise face to face, the Internet can also help overcome these feelings by interaction on social forums.
If they cannot afford to buy equipment or install an Internet line in the home, you can access the Internet in a local library, you might be surprised to know that some primary schools, offer their bank of computers for public use. Local colleges may also be able to help. Beginner course may be free or heavily subsidised. Check out what is happening at the local branch of Age UK. There are also annual events such as Spring Online where they get a warm and friendly welcome and a taster of what the Internet is all about.
So lets try to get the figures for isolation in old age down and introduce more older people to a web workout.