/ Technology

Are silver surfers put off by complicated computers?

Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith has challenged technology manufacturers to make computers more user-friendly, so older people can benefit from the web. But are computers really the problem?

Ian Duncan Smith has asked tech companies to take into account the needs of older people when designing their computers.

He thinks manufactures and internet providers should ‘look at the potential marketplace for better and easier to use equipment’. And getting these people online could certainly be a lucrative market, as 6.4 million over-65s in Briton aren’t yet online.

Is it really a hardware problem?

However, I’m not convinced that the devices themselves are really the problem. I’d be inclined to say it’s the web content that can be most perplexing.

Last time I raised the issue of access to the online world here on Which? Conversation, one reader Les raised a good point in highlighting the deliberate disorientation tactics created by some websites. He said:

‘Many of our commercial websites seem to do their best to create uncertainty. I believe it is called confusion marketing. Take my bank for instance […] they cannot even let you know on your account page what interest you earn on that account. You have to hunt all around the bushes to find out!’

Furthermore, with internet industries under pressure to tighten their belts with regards to security, some online processes are getting increasingly tricky.

I often struggle to read the characters used in verifying a new online account. And then there are the additional steps springing up to access online banking – with gadgets such as “secure keys” causing a stir.

Who should pay to get people online?

The government claims that the UK would be £22 billion better off if everybody was online, so it’s easy to see its motive in asking industry to hurry the process along.

There’s no dispute that there are lots of people in Britain who don’t use the internet, but there’s still much discussion about how to change this, or indeed whether or not it should be changed.

Another commenter, Charlie, argued that those who stand to pocket savings from the migration online should foot the bill for helping unconfident online users:

‘Who should pay for training? My answer is definitely the manufacturers who are making enormous profits.’

I agree with Charlie that those profiting should take some responsibility for those people who are not able to benefit from the advantages the online world can offer.

I’m not convinced that the creation of a new market for more “user-friendly” computers, as Iain Duncan Smith is advocating, is the answer. For many people it’s the (not unfounded) fear of the online world that puts them off.

Comments
Member

Alice mentions some of the issues but there are others, for example justified concerns about security and malware.

It is fine to encourage people to use computers, for example by offering better interest rates on accounts, cheaper insurance, etc, but we must respect that not everyone wants to use computers or to use them online.

On the basis that many people do struggle with computers from time to time, even if they have no problems when they are working properly, I believe that there is scope for improvement. People of all ages are taken in by email scams. And so on.

We can debate this until the cows come home but the people who can make a useful input are those who, for whatever reason, will not see this Conversation.

Member

old people should buy a mac then, simple, easy to use and free of virus jiggery-pokery

Member

On the other hand, Macs are very expensive and elderly people may not or be able to afford to buy one, or justify the expensive if it’s for occasional use.

I hope I can still afford to afford to use Macs when I’m on a pension. 🙂

Member
MarkW says:
8 September 2011

We looked at this for a senior member of our family and settled on an ipad – easy to use, instant fire up, light and portable – and they love it. Trouble we found with PC or laptop is that they are more confusing, easy to foul up by pressing wrong button, have too many function that perhaps the silver surfer doesn’t need. Go for an ipad – IMO

Member
PhilT says:
9 September 2011

An appropriately priced tablet computer (ie not an iPad) with a simple interface could make some contribution. Many people struggle to hit a target using a mouse, so a large icon touch display is OK for the operating system but you still need the eyesight and dexterity to hit small links on web pages.

Member

Out of interest what do people think of this website?: http://www.go-on.co.uk/

It’s the new version of what used to be called My Guide, a Government website to help people get online. Obviously the people reading this post already have sufficient computer skills to get online, but I’d be interested to know your thoughts anyway. Do you think it would help you take your first steps?

Member

For someone who’s interests lie elswhere eg gardening or cooking, a computer is about as much use as a chocolate fire guard. We are often told it will make life better if you do it online….
Whooo, lets stop there. Do what on line? What does online mean? How do I surf, ah yes, what does that mean?
Most people who own computers and are familiar with them and their foibles assume a level of knowledge in the non user that is just too high. Investing hundreds of pounds that they can ill afford on something that they dont want and dont understand is a step too far.
How about a television channel that is dedicated to the people who might want to know about computers but have no way of finding out what they need to know. They dont know what they dont know!

Member

@Alice, you ask what do people think about the website;

It’s function is to get people online but firstly you have to be online to get online! Stupid IMHO.

Interface is typical, make it pretty and it will help everyone and ease use, fails miserably as it doesn’t lead you correctly through the whole process.

Let’s start from the premise that They have access to a system at say the library and wish to get online at home, what do they need to know;

1. What is an ISP and why do I need one? How do I choose one? How do I contact them?
2. I need a machine to go on-line, how do I choose the best one for my needs? What types are out there and what are the benefits and cons of each?
3. I’ve got my machine and internet connection, now what do I do?

… You get the drift I think by now.

The biggest criticism of the content is that of the assumption that you need help to use the machine components or parts of the online experience when you haven’t actually got everything setup!

Member
silverthread says:
9 September 2011

I disagree with Duncan Smith. I am 71 years old and very computer literate. I have a PC and an Apple Macbook Pro, the latter is now my main computer. I also have a website, I am on Facebook and Skype regularly with my family. I also have a Kindle which is brilliant with my eyesight not as it used to be. When we get older, we do need a little more time to understand the new technology. I am hoping to get an iphone soon and I know that I will have to study it more carefully and probably ask for some help. We must not dumbdown technology but instead the government should fund classes for older people to attend so that they become more confident. Currently because of the cutbacks, such help is hard to find. I have convinced several of my friends of similar age to invest in a computer and they have done so and a whole new world has opened up for them. We email each other instead of phone. I still need to teach them how to Skype!

Member

I am 63 and I have been using computers since 1975.

I like silverthread, he is a mac fan.

But before we get into the fanboy argument, I work in software development and test, testing being my current forte. I have to consider all aspects of the computing experience and platforms especially as the mainstay of my company is the MS Windows operating system and therefore the PC.

I too disagree with the dumbing down but only to the extent that all software interfaces should be simple to use and context driven, there are too many applications (mainly form Microsoft) which are loaded with unnecessary and often little used functions.

There is An acronym KISS – keep it simple stupid. Unfortunately keeping it simple is actually more difficult to develop than throwing everything in and let the problem be the end users. It’s more expensive to produce and the return is therefore lower.

Member

Most PCs aren’t dificult to use. It’s more of an attitude problem with a lot of older folk. I’m 61 therefore somewhat in the middle here. The problem is that in the 21st century, technology is going to continue its advances and we have a need to keep up with at least the basics. A PC now is the equivalent of a landline phone 50 years ago. They very rapidly went from luxury for the better off to necessity. Ditto mobile phones. You may disagree and shun computer technology but it is here to stay and it is no more sensible to ignore it than it would be to not use a phone.
That said, some things could be improved. The random letter/number generators to defeat spam harvesters can be very tricky to read. Touchpads on laptops are often far too sensitive too. All in all though there’s really not a huge problem with most things. Just get on with it and you can soon learn to enjoy the extra dimension that a computer brings to your life.

Member

I’d rather hear Ian Duncan Smith promoting inclusive design as opposed to calling for products specifically targeted at older people. Something that’s easy to use for an older person should be easier to use for all of us – you only have to read articles about the oldest Facebook users who are eyeing up iPads to realise the benefit.

These bits of kit are clever enough to include options for downloadable solutions to help people tailor their devices to suit them. Let’s face it, manufacturer’s would much rather sell to everyone than to one user/age group and niche products can be pricey because the market for them is small – not that I’m saying an iPad isn’t expensive!!

All that said, I think that the security concerns surrounding connectivity, the cost and lack of learning resources – or knowledge of local resources where there some – are likely to be more prohibitive to people logging on than the equipment.

Member
Judith says:
9 September 2011

On the original subject of whether older people ‘need’ special hardware – in my view the answer is ‘no’. If you look at the comparatively easier to use touch screen technologies like tablets or ipads, which *everyone* finds quicker to start using effectively, then you have your answer right there: we should be designing technology for people of all ages, and bringing this kind of elegant simplicity into the mainstream, rather than attempting to build unnecessarily complicated kit and interfaces which confuse and discourage people of any age. So much of the technology we use is based on paradigms which are decades old, and so often built around the notion that the developer is never guilty and the ‘user’ must be punished if they fail to learn all the (often arbitrary) rules that the developer comes up with. Let’s stop talking about ‘users’ and start talking about people instead. Where we do need special technology – and indeed loads of it, and much cheaper – is for people with disabilities, for example who physically cannot use a mouse or touch a screen consistently. And that’s true whether they are older or not.

Member

Perhaps I am alone in this, but I am tired of using a computer to do everything. It gives very little pleasure or satisfaction. The internet has killed our good shops – those remaining are too far away to visit so one is forced to buy on-line without being able to see the quality of the goods and make easy comparisons. I am fed up with constantly being told that essential documents are available to down-load – they are badly presented in unmanageable formats with lots of wasted space and oversized graphics that cost a fortune to print off [taking paper, ink and electricity into account]. I am currently trying to get the HMRC to send me a set of Notes that will enable me to do an inheritance tax account on behalf of a relative’s estate; they run to 88 pages on line. Another essential booklet from the DWP on what to do when somebody dies was 44 pages long. These things used to be available at tax offices and Job Centre Plus offices; now it’s “go on line” [i.e. find your way around direct.gov and see if you can crack it in under half an hour]. The elderly relative had all her affairs on paper and it has been easy to gather everything together, weed out the dross, organise the bills, bank & savings accounts, stocks & shares, and other documentation, because it was all visible and I could bring it home and work on it. I can’t think how I should have done it if all her financial affairs were locked away in a computer with no paper records available; sit and wait for the post to eventually cough up all the missing details as bills and dividends trickle in, I suppose. I think many people [not just the elderly] want to put their affairs in order and leave them accessible; they also find it easier to manage paperwork because it is instantly visible, tactile, distinctive, and memorable. The dematerialization of records that has gone hand-in-hand with computer technology suits some people but not all. Not everyone has children or grand-children that can help them and they cannot trust strangers. Perhaps we should be putting our log-on ID’s and passwords in our instructions to our executors – has anyone of you actually done that yet? . . . I keep putting it off although I have left a list of documents in hard copy form [updating it every so often becomes a chore and I don’t consider myself to be in the “silver surfer” bracket yet].
There seems to be an assumption that everybody can type, has worked in an office environment, enjoys computers as a pastime, prefers e-mails and blogs to real-life conversations, and has all the time and money to do everything via the internet. The state retirement pension does not meet the cost of broadband and ISP charges, but never mind, you can go to your local library or an internet cafe and do all your browsing and important stuff . . . What local library? What internet cafe? We live in a rural area where most people over fifty come from agricultural and manual trade backgrounds; they function very well with duplicate books, telephones and everything sorted into envelopes, but computers scare them in case things go wrong [as if . . .!] and they do not trust websites or other people sufficiently to let them handle their affairs on line.
I hope I am not patronising or insulting the older generation as, clearly, there are millions of examples of capable people happily expanding their lives into these new territories. As for me, I am just hoping for the day when I can chuck the whole lot away and lead a simple life again.

Member
silverthread says:
11 September 2011

Unfortunately, we cannot stop technology from moving on. I understand the frustration of having to learn new skills when the old ones are still working fine. That has happened throughout history and older generations had to struggle with new developments. This time, I think, everything is moving so fast. PCs were to be seen in every office and many homes, now they are fast becoming obsolete. Laptops were the ‘in’ thing and these, too, will soon be pushed aside by tablets and smart phones, which in turn, will be superseded by something else. All this seems to be happening within one generation and the need for catching up without much time to stand still is for many very frustrating and not just older people.

Member

Silverthread

You said you are 71 and like many younger people, you are very comfortable using modern technology and enjoy doing so. That’s great and I hope that you can encourage others to do the same. Older people are likely to be happier to learn from someone your age than if taught by people a third of their age.

Many people have endured a lot of frustration with computers that fail to perform correctly (something relevant to the Conversation!), which is one of the reasons why some older people make little or no use of them.

It’s important to appreciate that there are many people who struggle with computers or don’t even want to get involved. Think about disabled people, including many that have poor sight.

Member

Wavechange –

I’m over 80 – started using analogue computers in the middle 1950s – then on to digital main frames – taught computing in school from the 1980s – I now help teach computer use in my OAP club. The problem usually is too many older people are simply not familiar with all forms of new technology as they don’t use it – so have a block, Plus the range of access is “too much” so numbers are put off. Sadly IDS hasn’t a clue.

I have found the best approach is to find WHAT the person really physically wants to do – Like say “get in touch” with relatives abroad and say start with e-mail and s l o w l y expand the experience one step at a time . Actually found this approach worked well with disabled children as well as the more able – not to mention at our computer club in the 1980s. Too many are ‘forced’ to run before they can walk.

Member

Richard
What you say about focusing on what people want to do is important. It provides a motive to learn. Keeping things simple is important too, and anyone who presents an elderly novice with Microsoft Word to write a letter ought to be shot! This complicated software causes problems for even experienced computer users.

It is good that we now have simple mobile phones with large buttons. Apply simple common sense to computers and they could be made much easier to get to know, use and enjoy.

Member

WAvechange – Though I never use Word at home – WordPerfect is far better – I disagree – A great many people USE Word as it is installed on their computer – so it is better to use a product that CAN and IS used on most other Computers – So that means Windows and a PC. So I teach how to compose and print a letter normally using the software their computer comes with that is usually Word – For e-mails WORD is redundant. I don’t find Word complicated – I do find Wordperfect more effective for journalism – but it would be stupid of me to teach someone to use Wordpefect if in fact they have Word installed. The average 11 year old can use Word if taught properly. It is the step by step process that seems to be missing from some teaching. Quite frankly I’ve always thought computers common sense. That’s why I used to build them. The vast majority of people who use computers find them fun. That includes the elderly if they want to use them.

Member

I have been drawn back to this Conversation by some more recent posts and I have read again what I wrote in September 2011 [at the top of this short thread]. I must have been having a very bad day! It reads like a rant from a reactionary anti-computer person who will just not get to grips with the technology and the opportunities it offers. I am certainly in the silver-surfer bracket but I have been using PC’s for about twenty-five years and consider myself fairly useful. And I actually do get quite a lot of pleasure out of the leisure side of computer use. It’s the transactional side that annoys me with the refusal of big organisations to bear in mind the limitations of people using computers at home. This week I renewed our travel insurance. Can I have a copy of the Policy Document [which I am recommended to take me when I go on holiday}? Sure, it’s available on line – 64 pages of badly put-together text with poor formatting, oversized fonts, bad editing across columns, and large amounts of wasted space. It might look good as a printed booklet, A5 size, back-to-back, and 16 pages, but I do not have the facilities at home to make it look like that. The company is reducing its carbon footprint and consumption of paper at my expense [and less efficiently]. Railway timetables are the same – take a printed book, turn it sideways, microscope it, and scan it into a website; job done! – you can all now have the whole timetable at home!

I am really hoping that this approach to documentation that is supposed to be accessible will beovetaken by a more enlightened and sensitive approach. It is not the complexity of computers, their hardware or software, that is the problem for people – of any age; it is the primitive and unprogressive behaviour of organisational website creators that is putting people off. A beacon of best practice is gov.uk which is a model of rational organisation, good navigation, clear language, attractive but functional presentation, and effective links.

Member
Adrian McTiernan says:
11 September 2011

Being a grey surfer myself (63), I am not so badly confused as perhaps older people who may have not thought of computers as useful, and now need special classes to begin using them. I think young people are used to computers, but I was about 21, and there weren’t any, but my mother was a shorthand and typing whizz, having been trained as a secretary. Anyway, I decided that if mum could do it, then so could I, and bought a typewriter and a book on how to type, and spent my holiday week learning, and never looked back.

When they became available, and I could afford, a secondhand computer (£600 then), I was able to type faster, correct spelling mistakes quicker, and print out CV’s and applications for work – I went to college, and was able to use the machines without any problem. I usually communicate via email now, do photography as a hobby, and edit and print without problem. I love the way you can enter a search topic, and about half a million possible targets come up. I love google translate, which is just so simply available – look on the list of what google provides near the search box or at the top of the page, copy and paste from your letter in word package, and go to translate, and pick your target language, and very quickly your letter is shown in the language you want – you can then send the letter to whoever and they will understand what you said – one of the most important features of the internet, to my mind. I use the online Wikipedia, brilliant – saves shelf space formerly used for encyclopaedia, sorry spelling is not great here, but there are many things you can do with one. I use Skype very regularly, can see my friends while we talk, and it costs nothing to join or to use, so long you are both on Skype, and conversations could last as long as you want, so I find my life is enriched by the computer. I save money by not having to have a phone conversation when I want to find out my bank account status, as I use online banking, and there are millions of photos out there of beautiful scenery and so forth, which I save and have a slideshow on my machine.

I made friends with another retiree a bit older than I am, and he is an author of books on the local veteran Bike and Car history, and I scan photos, type words, and prepare the work for him to have published, and have created slideshows which can be shown on digital projectors, and as a keen amateur photographer, have made photographic slides so that he can show the same thing where there is no digital projector.

Another good thing to me is YouTube, where I can watch short movies, see amazing and fascinating things, and learn all kinds of interesting scientific and nature things, and watch my favourite singers and listen to them at the same time. I love the fireworks on New Years Eve, and you can watch them from accross the world – London, Sydney, New York, and so forth. There is a lot of garbage on there too, so you need to be selective.

The Prime Minister and Downing Street are online, and you can send and recieve emails from them, and make your points without the cost of paper and stamps. I contact my MP about important matters via email, he has told me he is pleased to get emails and welcomes comments and informing of issues, and if you contact the Houses of Parliament (via email), they will send lists of all MP’s, and their email contact details. I am not certain, but I think that Buckingham Palace may well be online to the public.

You can shop online, and I even buy most of my gadgets and so forth from ebay, a wonderful place where you can buy almost anything, cars to caravans, from the cloth used to line the now defunct Concorde planes, to a coil of old rope found on a beach, to first edition books, DVD’s and videos, and almost everything you want. No bus or car trips, you save time, no parking problems, no petrol bills or queueing, and if it’s on sale, it will be in stock – no arriving at the shop to find they are sold out, or no longer available – you pay postage, and usually there is no problem upon arrival, and I pay via Paypal, where the seller doesn’t even have details of your bank or credit card, but gets paid anyway,so there is not a problem with the security of your account. It is also brilliant for transferring money instantly. I can send money to a friend as a present – he is in America, but he has a Paypal credit card, and about 2 minutes after I send it to him, his card has the money available – I get charged a small fee, but transfer is immediate – beat that, High Street Bank! All due to the computer

one of the worst stupidities now is that many websites require you to register with them and choose a password before adding comments, which seems absurd, and then to decipher weirdly off-straight letters and numbers before you can make the point. My problems are remembering the password, or worse still, my fictitious name they insist has to be not your real one, reading the daft letters, and what is even more frustrating is when you know you have read them correctly, but they say you have made an error, and have to put in a new set of letters, and the comment you so carefully typed has vanished, so you have to start again. Madness! and so forth.

But altogether, the computer has opened up my life to unavailable things from before they came, and apart from taking up about 5 hours a day on average, it is the best and most used item in my house. The more I learn about what I can do with computers, the more I do, and the richer my experience. Of course, there are dangers of becoming housebound, or living in an unreal world if you get too involved with the online world, but where it meets real life, and can subsitute for age-old things like letters, phone conversations over a phone, photo printing from chemists, paying bills and buying (or selling unwanted items), it is a Godsend to me – I would feel isolated without it – is that normal for a 60-odd year old, or what?

Member

I’m pleased to see Which? Is debating such issues, but I’m not convinced of the value of these Conversations, if we don’t have a better understanding of the relevant facts. Just regurgitating HM Government statistics without question is not helpful:

>>> The government claims that the UK would be £22 billion better off if everybody was online … <<<

Looking at the Race Online 2010 website, “PwC estimate that increases in educational attainment if all children of school age were online at home could result in a lifetime increase in earnings of £10.5bn.”

So half of these projected savings have nothing what-so-ever to do with silver surfers and will take over 40 years of working life to realise.

Sidelining the main debate for a minute, if an average of 20 million people are in work for 40 years, that £10.5 billion equates to £13.25 per year. Hardly enough to pay for a month’s broadband connection. Some benefit indeed!

Returning to the argument for silver-surfers:

“Average household savings of £560 a year can be made by shopping and paying bills online. Achieving a similar increase to over-65s’ disposable income by increasing the Basic State Pension by £10 a week — ie £520 a year — would cost around £6bn a year.”

The first fallacy here is that no one over 65 currently uses the Internet for shopping and paying bills, so every OAPs income would need to increase by this amount.

The second falacy is that the "average household" savings from online shopping are somehow representative of how an over-65 spends their money. We know from numerous studies that over-65's do not spend as much on consumer durables as other sectors; food and fuel are their major outgoings.

The third is that NOT spending £520 per household somehow makes Britain plc better off by an equivalent amount. Bizarre economics from a leading accountancy firm, or have they been the victim of selective quoting too?

Member
silverthread says:
11 September 2011

Hi Em, I am not sure to what extent you are familiar with what people over 65 do or not do. While food and fuel are very important outgoings for us and many others, myself and many of my friends and acquaintances in our late sixties and early seventies, do our grocery shopping on-line. I find it a godsend when it is cold, when I don-t feel too good or just want to be in the garden rather than in a supermarket. Many of us pay our bills on-line and I am sure that I am not the only one who does her banking on-line. We over 65 have more time for shopping in town but Amazon and others will often give me a better price and I save by shopping on-line because i am not tempted to go for a coffee in town or buy things that are on offer and I don’t really need. I also don’t have to carry my shopping as the Sainsbury’s or Waitrose delivery men or women are always happy to put the bags on my kitchen table. The best thing to be on-line is communication where I save a lot. No more phone calls to family members in different parts of the country or abroad because I use Skype for free. I see more of my children and grandchildren than I would have done without the internet. If I were to offset the cost of my PC and laptop plus the cost of internet access and electricity use, I would probably make a small profit. However, It is not just all about money. Living on my own, I no longer am limited to how I spend my evenings. I have opportunity to learn, to explore, to look at art and listen to music, to read papers and to catch up using iPlayer when I have been too busy watching TV. I mix with a lot of people my own age and we happily move between gardening, meeting up for coffee, cooking and family, going to the theatre or concert and our PCs or laptops that give us a third dimension to living as over 65s. We need to be positive about it, not being patronised by people like Gove and others. Instead we need to focus on how to encourage older people to join this new media because otherwise many will be left behind and finding themselves in a world that is becoming increasingly foreign to them. Isolation is not good for the mind or the soul..

Member

Hi silverthread,

Maybe I didn’t express myself clearly. What I meant to say was:

“The first fallacy [in the Government’s case] is [the unrealistic assumption] that no one over 65 currently uses the Internet for shopping and paying bills, so every OAPs income would need to increase by this amount.”

You’ve kindly confirmed in some detail the way I expected many over 65’s use the Internet already (and I’m not that far behind you in age), but not the Government it would seem.

Whilst on the subject, the biggest error they seem to have made is to confuse the amount **individual** pensioner’s incomes would need to increase, with the amount necessary to offset **household** savings of £540. There are about 12 million OAPs, but only 6 million households where the occupants are of pensionable age (source: ONS.gov.uk), so we can knock another 50% (£3 billion) off the supposed benefits of getting over 65’s online.

I agree that everyone who has an interest in using the Internet should be helped and encouraged. But I wouldn’t like those who don’t to fear being isolated from Government information and services, unless they get to grips with some expensive and alien technologies. Not everyone will have the intelligence or motivation necessary to learn how to do it, regardless of how simple we can make the devices themselves.

The whole idea smacks of vested interest with some pretty dubious cost/benefit analysis underpinning it all.

Member
Snowdin says:
12 September 2011

My wife, a recently retired teacher, has used PCs at work for 12 years in a very basic way. She struggles to use our PC at home. Now that we have an IPad I can’t get her off it and she is surfing increasingly effectively with some help from an Apple outlet tutorial. As a child my brain wasn’t wired for maths, and hers clearly wasn’t wired for PCs, but the ease of use of the IPad makes information seeking a doodle. I like to be able to fiddle around with files so the IPad is frustrating as, for example, I can’t rename photos while on holiday and transfer the renamed files to my PC on return – really important on wildlife and botany tours.

Member

Now here’s a thought. Most retired people, especially the elderly and infirm, would love to have the convenience of a computer if it did what they need it for and was simple to use and cost very little. The barrier is that computers are inherently complex and they are designed to offer as much as possible to power users and game players. Most OAPs want simpler things, e-mail, skype, on line shopping and maybe web browsing. The big barrier is spending hundreds of pounds on something that is too complex to use and committing to monthly contracts for broadband access.
Since the frail, disabled and isolated user needs on line shopping and on line banking most of all why not ask the supermarkets and banks to get a simple computer designed and paid for, with free broadband (not phone calls though) to add to the online community those who would truly benefit but cannot access the miracle that is modern computing?

Member
Rex Middleton says:
16 September 2011

A silver surfer who uses a computer to keep abreast of the news nationally and internationally from the Morning Star to the Daily Telegraph, the New Statesman to Private Eye – NOT the porno pap papers so beloved of our celebrities and other non entitities. Der Speigel is recommended for EU news. E mails are essential to me, as are photo editing programmes.
Many older folk, including former teachers and other professionals are simply not interested in computers. Old fashioned maybe but often wanting to communicate face to face. A problem this with many young people who depend almost entirely on gadgetry.
l believe that too much emphasis is on computers in education. They are simply a tool. Like many tools they have their uses.

Member

I am 61 and have been computer literate for years. I do not consider myself to one of the so called ‘older generation’. This government, like previous governments before them, spend far too much time interfering in things that don’t concern them and not enough time dealing with things that do. The vast majority of people in my age group are quite capable of deciding for themselves whether or not they wish to use a computer. The reasons why the government want them to are several. If everything was done online then no doubt the goverment would save money by closing all goverment offices that deal with the public and making their staff redundant. They would also save money by sending everything online thus doing away with postage costs. Their is also, of course, the fact that they just like interfering. Big Brother is watching us and this will only get worse as technology improves!!!

Member
Juliette says:
16 September 2011

I’ve read all the comments – some I identify with and some I dont. I’m a ‘silver surfer’ myself and have found my laptop very useful for all sorts of reasons as mentioned by othe folk.
However, I noticed that NOT one person mentioned the problem of those ‘silver surfers’ who are too deaf to use the phone whenever there’s a problem. There’s no helpline access other than a phone number. Simple questions such as how to rectify problems of getting access to windowslive because having had to call in Virgin engineer to sort out Broadband connection problem. Even then it took a hearing friend to make several phone calls at great expense to get me connected online again.
Although I am back to surfing the web etc. I am a bit confused about the differences between Windowslive and Internet Explorer..For me to be able to connect with someone to explain on my laptop would be a godsend. Any ideas?

Member
Local Lady says:
16 September 2011

I had to use then for work, and now use one regularly at home for all kinds of things, writing,shopping, photos etc – and watching wierd stuff on YouTube,catching up with missed TV programmes, research etc. I think what puts some older people off is not the hardware, but the software. I would say that when choosing a computer decide what you want to use it for and go from there. If you’re older you probably won’t want to use it to play games, but you might want Skype. Plus don’t be fooled into upgrading everytime a new bit of software comes out. I have had XP for years and its’ fine for what I want to do. Plus decide whether you need to decide laptop or desktop. Some people work better on the move. I don’t so they’re not for me. Also make sure that you have a reliable repair man. This is much better than using a help line.

Member

I too am very hard of hearing and never have the sound on my computer as it is just a distracting noise. My wife answers any telephone calls as she can still hear quite well and she also acts as go-between when having to deal with all the organizations who give out their instructions on line but do not answer email queries (‘this email is sent from an unmanned site’ etc.) but simply say if you need help telephone us. This usually entails being in a queue of callers waiting to speak to the single operator in some foreign country who only just speaks English and the call often costs a fortune.
I do love the sites who allow a question and answer conversation with a real person by email. They made you feel normal rather than an idiot.
I am 70 years old and have used computers since they were invented but I am completely self-taught and do not profess to being computer literate even though I understand much of the terminology. I use the computer every day sometimes for 6 or more hours at a time as it is much more fun than the TV which I cannot hear. I do like sub-titled films though.
I do all my banking on-line and I buy many things on-line from ebay, delcampe, amazon, airlines, nationalexpress, and many, many others. Almost anything I need can be found and purchased in a few minutes. I save a great deal of money by booking holidays and flights on-line, seats and bags on planes, and printing my own boarding passes. This saves money, time and standing (an increasingly difficult task) in queues for hours at airports. I do not download films or music but I do indulge for hours in family history and find it very interesting and becoming much easier nowadays.
If H.M.government can encourage more pensioners to use computers I am sure that it would enrich their lives and help to lengthen the life of their useable memory. Getting to grips with the intricacies and frustrations of the computer can give you a purpose in life when most other things have ceased to interest you.

Member
Ivor Slee says:
17 September 2011

The Apple I-pad is the ideal Silver Surfer device in that it is clutter free, portable, and is relatively free from hackers .This is the ideal device for people who have not bothered to clutter up their homes with “junk” that requires a whole room to be kept for it. The I-pad is the way forward, in one step Apple have rendered everything else obsolete.Of course if you have been a computer nerd for years you would not understand why this really is the answer for the future and for the Silver Server to be in front in one jump.
Yours sincerely
Ivory Slee

Member

I-Pad is NOT for everyone on grounds of cost alone, a consideration probably more relevant to the
old fogey than any other age group.

Member

I don’t accept that older people are less capable of understanding technology than anyone else. Having encountered people of all ages who say about technology, “I don’t understand any of that stuff!”, I believe that most are unwilling to make the effort to deal with anything invented after their childhood.

They go through life putting as much distance between themselves and technology as they can. With the ceaseless cry of “It’s too complicated for me!” as their excuse for not understanding it, they spare themselves the trouble of learning and instead rely on those around to ‘do’ technology for them.

Member

I believe that most are unwilling to make the effort to deal with anything invented after their childhood.

There is some truth in this but one of the reasons why people do not make the effort to keep up is that they do have a use for the latest gadgetry. Is that wrong?

Member

I’ve read some pretty disparaging comments on old people not keeping up with new technology. It strikes me that there are some rather intolerant younger people who, having grown up with computers think that anyone who finds them hard to master are stupid, lazy or determined to resist progress. As has been said on this forum, there are people who would use the technology if it were simple because the benefits are clear but access is denied by the learning required to access them.

It is quite simple really, if you had always used computers at school, at home and at work then using them is easy. If you had the times table on the back of your exercise books at school, had only books at home and the computer at work was in the accounts department then you have a lifetime of catching up to do.

Technology interfaces with the user don’t have to be complex, cars are driven much as they have always been, despite having more computer power than a small nation 50 years ago; ebooks are simple to use, games consoles and hand helds are too; so why is a computer so intimidating to anyone approaching them for the first time? Surely technology should be able to make sing them intuitive and simple?

This reminds me of technical instuction leaflets and manuals, once they were written by technical writers and were meant to be idiot proof, now they seem to be written by idiots and designed to be useless. Otherwise why so many help lines?

If the government and the IT industry wants to increase their market then they need to address the requirements of those not yet buying in to the technology and aim products at them rather than trying to sell to a saturated market with extra features the many don’t need and won’t use but must pay for.

And as a final thought to those who say that non users are just lazy, what if you suddenly had to use computers that only worked in Chinese, would you learn that language to continue your use of them? Or would you complain that it just wasn’t worth the effort?

Member

The two real issues are
Broadband speed
Windows Operating systems which are the most deeply flawed products ever sold in the history of the World. No wonder Apple has more cash than the US Government!

Member

I believe that one main problems with PCs is that they are designed as a multipurpose machine.

Using a PC, one can access the Internet, edit and create text documents, edit photographs, create and edit movie films, use it for telecommunications, etc etc.

Over the years manufacturers have, without commercial success, tried to introduce dedicated machines for each of these individual tasks. The only type of computer which appears to have created a successful niche is the games console.

Even the mobile phone has become more complicated as it has taken on the mantle of a small portable personal computer.

If a user wishes to utilise their PC for just one or two tasks; it is possible to make the system simpler by setting up a personalised user interface. But I wonder if the PC industry and retailers are interested in doing this. Keeping the user interface complicated means that they have a nice little earner providing ongoing user support.

BTW – I am a 67 year old silver surfer who worked for 30 years in the computer support industry. Most of this time was spent challenging computer geeks who loved to make things as complicated as possible for the user.

Member

I’m an 88 year new this year to computers with a fairly basic Toshiba laptop.Before getting it I took 2 free ‘taster’ courses at my local library.When on my own what I found an initial problem was not so much the machine but the instruction books that came with it or which I bought for self tuition.Great pictures and details of how to switch on followed by incomprehensible technospeak, or instructions in detail in the ‘for beginners’ series which looked so easy but showed on-screen results which in no way matched what came up on my screen, so it may be the presentation of ‘how to’ do things that is the major problem for those for whom computers are seen at first as a strange black art shrouded in fog.

Member

Many over 65s I personally know AND have heard of flatly REFUSE to join the digital fraternity, not because of impecuniosity (as they can well afford a computer and internet connection) AND despite an offer to set things up for them and teach them how to use, gratis…. these people are too set in their ways to want to change their lifestyle for the better (speaking for myself anyway) OR connect to the internet for a more enlightened experience altogether, if it’s appropriate a term to use.

Those silver surfers or retirees who are connected that I know are mainly those who have had use of the computer in their previous professional or working lives and confined mainly, but by no mean exclusively, to socio-economic groups A, B and C1.

Member
gill says:
6 January 2012

How do they think we have the money to spare for the broadband, should be free for over 65’s.

Member

gill, presumably you pay to receive your radio and television broadcasts, use your telephone and post your letters, so why should broadband be free?

Member

I thought I would join in this discussion you don’t pay for radio reception any longer, if you are over 75 you don’t pay for TV.

Letters cost far too much to send these days so I would use e-mail its free (excepting for broadband).
Now why shouldn’t the retired populace get broadband free, the government want them to get on-line to save money so …

Member

I seem to have missed this one – I’m seem to be the oldest poster on this and have free TV – For the last fifteen years I’ve actually run computer classes (and computer repairs) for my local OAPs club (I’m an OAP computer nerd! 🙂 – I’ve been using computers both analogue and digital since the 1960s including mainframes. I also taught computer studies in a school from the 1980s BBC era.

Many of my ‘clients’ are eager to use computers as they know about the internet and the bargains to be made. Their trouble seemed to be they are intimidated by the ‘youngsters’ trying to help and can’t understand the manuals because they tend to be written for those familiar with computer speak already (the BBC manuals were much clearer.) As I’m older than many – that doesn’t apply. But many do have difficulty grasping the concepts

Interestingly I found a similar reluctance or inhibition with female teachers in the 1980s – particularly the idea that you could break a computer by pressing the wrong keys. whereas the male teachers were far more eager to embrace the technology – but I had a normal teacher’s ability to reduce the problems to easily understood steps which helped..

I really do not accept the idea that broadband should be free to OAPs.

Member
Philip Leon says:
29 May 2012

The money spent on software is wholly, 100% unnecessary. As a coach to silver surfers, I ask them what they want to get out of their computing. Most want the Internet, plus perhaps e-mail. A few want to keep accounts and write letters. A number want to look at photographs sent to them or for them to be able to send to family and friends.
All this is achievable without any software costs, very simply and without hours of tuition. Best of all it rarely suffers from technical issues including trojans, worms and visuses. It is just a matter of showing the client how to get the best results with the simplest of keystrokes.
My oldest client at 88 now banks on-line, and talks to his grand-children on Skype, having never used a computer until 5 years ago. So if he can, anyone can. It just needs a patient coach.

Member

Silver surfers (or anyone for that matter) can save a considerable amount of cash by using a computer for the following:

(i) shopping around for the best value insurance
(ii) benefiting from cheaper onliner taqriffs for gas, electricity etc
(iii) shopping around for best prices when buying goods

For example – today I purchased some rechargeable batteries online, the cost was £6.20 including postage. The cheapest I could have purchased the same item locally was £9.00.

OK – it takes time to shop around, but many silver surfers are time rich and cash poor.

It doesn’t take long to recoup the cost of a computer and bradband charges!

Member
SadeEndablesE says:
4 July 2013

[This comment has been removed due to it being spam.]

Member

Eh?

Member

Sorry Kermit, just a bit of nonsensical spam to start the day.

Member
Philip says:
4 July 2013

As someone who coaches the older generation, and myself a ‘silver surfer’, I can assure you that once a computer has been set up to meet the needs of the person, and time is taken to explain every step of doing things (I use quick access icons on Linux which does not suffer malware and is FREE) you would be amazed how successful the older person becomes. My oldest? 95 years old. They shop on line to ensure they keep their independence. True it took many visits, but it is so satisfying to see the results!