A charity is fighting to eliminate the digital poverty ‘pandemic’ affecting older people in the North East in a bid to keep them connected with families and to avoid online scams.
According to Age UK North Tyneside, because of Covid-19 there are more older people than ever who are ‘digitally excluded’ – recent stats showed more than two million over-75s across the UK are not equipped with, or able to use, day-to-day technology
To help tackle this issue in the North East, the charity has set up a ‘Digital Champions’ scheme, where older people are matched with volunteers who can help them with technology, whether that be using a PC, tablet, phone or even TV.
Two of the main aims are to help older people reconnect with families, giving them the skills needed to keep in touch with video calls and messaging, and also to prevent them from
falling victim to the increasing number of digital scams being carried out by criminals.
Age UK North Tyneside has been inundated with requests from older people desperate to develop their digital skills, but needs volunteers to help deliver training to those who are waiting.
So far, the scheme’s co-ordinator Jo Linton is carrying out all the training. She said: “I know there are so many people out there who need help, but at the moment I just need to clone myself so I can help everyone!
“Really, what we need are volunteers who can go out there and spend just a couple of hours a week passing on what they know. They don’t have to be experts, just people who can help someone set up a Zoom call, send a text message or show them around an iPad!
“We could reach so many people and help change their lives – if you think you can give up just a small amount of time please get in touch. Just giving up a small amount of time could really make a huge difference to someone’s life.”
One of the people benefiting from Jo’s help is artist Mo Black. She has been a victim of a social media ‘phishing’ scam and wants to find out more about keeping herself e-secure.
Mo, who runs ‘Mo’s Mosaics’, also wants to know more about digitising her work so she can pass it on to the next generation.
Mo, 74, from North Shields, said: “We are living in a world built for the younger generation with so much done online nowadays. The older generation are being left behind!
“I have friends that are frightened to go online because they don’t know which emails are real and which are scams. It can be terrifying.
“We have to rely on organisations like Age UK North Tyneside to help us get by. Meeting with Jo has been so beneficial to me, and I really hope the charity can recruit more Digital Champions to help all the people out there who are in the same situation as me.”
As well as offering training to older people, the charity also has tablets and phones loaded with data to loan out to customers to help them keep connected.
The charity is running bookable group training sessions in Dudley and Whitley Bay, and regular bookable one-to-one sessions in the Forum Shopping Centre, Wallsend. It also has some training run on Zoom.
If you are over 18 and interested in becoming a Digital Champion, or want to learn more about using technology, call 0191 2877011 or email email@example.com.