Older learners get computer savvy with help from Oxford Brookes and Age Concern

Thursday, 11 March 2010

Student volunteers from Oxford Brookes University have been teaching the over-50s valuable computer skills.

Student volunteers from Oxford Brookes University have been teaching the over-50s valuable computer skills.

The free IT classes at Northway Community Centre in Headington were set up by the charity Age Concern and Oxford Brookes Careers Centre to teach useful skills, bring the generations together and strengthen community ties.

Under the supervision of Ahmed Rahman, Age Concern's IT Development Worker and Northway's IT manager, eight students have been giving one-to-one tutorials as part of an eight-week course.

The learners vary from complete beginners to those with an intermediate knowledge of IT. They have been finding out about digital photography, word-processing and desktop publishing as well as how to surf the Internet, send emails and even design web sites!

Perhaps most importantly of all, the classes are helping older people connect to their children and grandchildren through technology.

Edmund Ogunleye, aged 67 and from Headington (pictured with student Tom Smith), loved to read emails from his children living in Nigeria and Canada. The only problem was – he couldn't reply until starting the classes.

'These days no matter what level of education you have, if you don't have knowledge of computers you can't participate,' he says.

'All the time I have only been opening my email and I can write and send them now.'

Carol Jacobs, 72, of Headington, is being mentored by 19-year-old Henry Edwards who is a first year Media Technology student.

Carol has found a long lost relation via the Internet.

'I have a cousin in New Zealand who discovered me on the computer. She picked my name up and now we're in contact regularly.'

John Goodwin, 86, of Headington, is a former navigational staff pilot with the RAF. He is being tutored by Tom Smith, 18, a first year history student.

'John had never looked at the Internet,' reveals Tom. 'He has had a computer for 15 years and never surfed the World Wide Web which really shocked me as the possibilities of the Internet are endless.'

He says John had all the skills to use his computer and simply needed a little bit of knowledge and confidence. 'If I was to look at some of the stuff John used to do for the RAF, for example, I wouldn't know where to start.'

He adds: 'Working with John over the past few weeks has been fantastic, allowing me to develop his IT skills whilst also making a new friend.'

Oxford Brookes Careers Centre is strongly backing the scheme because of the wide-ranging benefits it brings.

Volunteering initiatives create stronger communities by forging ties between the generations while the IT classes are boosting the skills of both the learners and students. The young students are developing communication skills and motivation.

Penny Thewlis, Deputy Chief Executive of Age Concern Oxfordshire comments: 'Only 38 per cent of people over 65 have ever used the Internet compared with 70 per cent of the overall population. This means that older people are missing out on things which could make life easier and more enjoyable. Through this partnership with Oxford Brookes we hope to be able to change this. It is never too late to learn!'