This blog follows on from the previous post entitled “Cheylesmore Good Neighbours – overcoming barriers”. Other blogs in this series can be found by clicking on “Cheylesmore Good Neighbours” in the TAG CLOUD.
Less than 40% of the UK’s elderly population use computers and the Cheylesmore Good Neighbours group is no different. The small number of members who do have computers, only use them in very limited ways. A key to our year ahead will be to encourage people to make more use of computers to open up new opportunities for them. Having said that, many people have already concluded that this new fangled “techie” world is too complicated to get to grips with at their age. The mere word “computer” makes them switch off rather than switch on. So we have quite a challenge ahead of us to change these perceptions.
At the end of 2014 we were awarded a grant from the Coventry City Council of £1500 to enable us to purchase more tablet computers. We had already been able to purchase five tablet computers with a grant from the GrumbleSmiles Trust. In total this should provide us with a springboard to take the group further forward in the year ahead.
On Friday 23rd January, we held our first “taking tablets” session which was deliberately announced as a “FUN session” rather than more formally a computer training session. We initially thought to split the group into “beginners” and “more advanced” users but quickly found that nobody wanted to be seen as advanced. The session was planned to enable members to get used to tablet computers at a very basic level, but at the same time have some FUN doing jigsaws, writing notes and taking photographs.
Two of the Steering Group are experienced computer trainers and they were assisted by the other four Steering Group members. Between us our aim was to facilitate three or four members at each table and enable them to get used to tablets. Some members brought their own tablets which were not set up for our session, nor were they familiar to our facilitators. This made looking after even only three people at a table difficult.
The first exercise was to get used to using a touch screen by doing a jigsaw. Not only did this highlight some of the dexterity problems members have, but it also showed how easy it was to accidently switch off the computer, or alternatively press other buttons on the computer which led you away from the jigsaw. Eyesight on screens smaller than our 10 inch screen tablets was quite a problem for some people. In contrast, enthusiasm and impatience was another issue that led people to make mistakes. Still, everyone mastered it in the end and some moved on to bigger jigsaws. Even better, a few went away with the intention of doing more jigsaws on computers they own already.
Our next exercise was to get people typing on “notepads”. This proved interesting because several people weren’t familiar with “QWERTY” keyboards, and the pace and firmness with which they touched the screen, altered how the letters appeared on the screen. These are small issues, but they are important to people who don’t want to look silly if they make a mistake when they are typing. The good news is that some of the members had previous administration experience and had no difficulty in typing. After a relatively short time, most people had been able to accomplish adding sentences to the notepad. A few had even got as far as voice activated typing which was much more FUN!
The final session my group got to do was to use the tablet to take photographs. This was relatively simple and straightforward and they got to taking “selfies” as well as photographs of other members of the group very quickly. This will be even more FUN when, in the following weeks, we are able to show the photographs on the big screen or maybe even on the internet.
In many ways the session was chaotic and hard work for the facilitators, but on a positive note there was a huge amount of engagement from almost all of the members. Many of them are unlikely to have become involved at all if we had just asked them to participate in a computer session. Even now this session has not transformed them into an eager group of elderly “techies”, but most seemed to have had FUN and were happy to come along to another session.
Our challenge will be to make that more organised but still retain the element of FUN.