Daylight savings time looms, and the U.K.’s BBC is planning a brilliant use for the “lost hour.” Its “Give An Hour” campaign is a wonderful idea as it encourages people all over the U.K. to spend an hour showing someone over 55 how to use the Internet for the first time. One of the things spurring this effort is an increasing awareness of the digital divide experienced by seniors.
Take London, for instance: Nearly 90% of Londoners have used the Internet before. Almost half of those who have not — a solid 43% of them — are over 55.
My favorite example of “Give An Hour” in action is a video of Richard Westcott of the BBC as he sits in on a very special training session. The instructor, George Higgs, is a 104-year-old from Leicestershire and a regular Internet user. His student is Stella Fawcett, his 87-year-old partner, and a woman who sees no need for the Internet or a computer.
Unfortunately, the BBC does not allow embedding of the video so you’ll have to click on the link to see it: “Give An Hour: George 104, Explains The Value of The Internet.” (I particularly love their reactions when Westcott introduces them to Twitter.)
This is an idea we should adopt on this side of “the Pond.” The BBC’s guide to helping get someone online for the first time that has a lot of useful advice (“Give An Hour Volunteers Handbook,” PDF). It even has an especially helpful section that gives pointers to online resources for older adults that address common interests and hobbies such as cooking, gardening, genealogy, and money management. I think these are vital, as the most important part of giving any type of instruction is keeping it relevant to the student.
Speaking of students, there is at least one instance of them becoming instructors, as reported by the BBC:
Pupils at St Anne’s Catholic High School for Girls, in Enfield, have been giving an hour of their week, every week, to help local people develop their online skills. [...]
Betty Canon, 77, recently bought a computer but found it hard to learn how to use the web effectively, especially since becoming interested in genealogy.
‘I used to teach so I appreciate what the school is trying to do for us. I’ll be coming for more classes. I need as many as they can give me.’
‘I’ve helped a friend of mine who was abandoned as a baby. She wanted to know if her mother was dead and, if she was, she wanted to trace her brothers and she’s been able to do that.’
‘This scheme is fantastic.’
So, even though this is a British effort, I think we should all try to take an hour and help our older friends and relatives get online. As prior posts here have illustrated, it’s great for them on many levels — ranging from keeping their social lives active to maintaining mental acuity.
There are many ways to make the Internet more accessible to seniors. The WOW! Computer for Seniors has a touch-screen interface that can be easily operated with a single finger. Its large print display can be magnified up to 200% for those with vision issues and, best of all, it’s currently on sale!
Additionally, firstSTREET has a series of books designed for seniors that can help them continue learning at their own pace. My Parents 1st Computer Guide by Louise Latremouille covers the basics, and My Parents Computer Guide, Beyond the Basics is a great followup (or a starting point for more advanced beginners). Latremouille originally penned these for her own parents.
So, go out and spend an hour with someone over 55, and open up a whole new world for them! The Internet awaits!