18 March 2020

With people aged over 70 being asked to self-isolate for up to 12 weeks, now is the time to help your older friends, neighbours and loved ones get tech-ready, says BCS, The Chartered Institute for IT. The professional body for IT is urging people to help support older friends and relatives with the use of technology as well as keep them safe online.

Research by the Office for National Statistics shows only 47% of adults aged 75 years had used the internet recently and of the four million adults who reported never using the internet last year, more than 2.5 million were aged 75 years and over.

Adam Thilthorpe, Director for Professionalism for BCS, the Chartered Institute of IT, said: “Self-isolation will mean that technology has a vital role to play in keeping older people connected, safe and well.

"There are lots of ways technology can be used imaginatively, such as setting up a family group chat, or playing online games together.

“While there are many older people who are very connected, but there are also many who are not engaged digitally.

"Many older people will need support to set up technological connections - and it’s something that their tech-savvy friends can do now which will make a real difference.

“Younger relatives and neighbours can help enormously by setting up some simple technological tools for older people. It can make a real difference to combat isolation, lift their spirits, but also keep up food supplies and vital health information.

“It’s also important to remind older people to stay safe online and be particularly wary of suspicious.”

BCS has put together a checklist for getting tech-ready for a period of social isolation:

Keeping in touch

Do your elderly friends and neighbours have a mobile phone and can they use it? Check they have data and minutes to keep in touch

Seeing friendly faces online can lift spirits. Help older people to set up video-messaging such as Skype, FaceTime or WhatsApp. Zoom is also easy to use.

Online games

Can you set up online Scrabble, Backgammon or playing cards games? Maybe help your relatives arrange online games evenings with family or friends.

Libraries, audiobooks and BBC Sounds

Many libraries subscribe to BorrowBox which enables members to borrow ebooks and audiobooks. Also, look at Audible and other online audio bookstores. Podcasts are another useful resource and don't forget the BBC Sounds app.

Virtual tours

It is possible to ‘get out and about’ via the online world. Increasing numbers of museums offer virtual tours. Don’t underestimate the value of Google Earth - explore childhood streets or old holiday destinations.

Supplies

Online shopping can be vital for older people over the coming months but will be new to many. Help set up an account and talk them through the process. Also, help them to make online contact with volunteer groups in the area who may also help with deliveries.

Health Information

The internet is a vital source of the latest information and health advice. Help them to find the NHS 111 website and other trusted news websites, or if that’s not possible, be their ‘eyes and ears’ and telephone them to check they know about key developments.

Staying Safe Online

People should be particularly wary of emails with Coronavirus and Covid-19 in their subject line, particularly if those emails come from strangers. Be doubly wary of emails about the virus that ask you do something *quickly* or take a particular action like log into a website or enter any personal details. Cyber-security criminals are using worry about Coronavirus to dupe people into disclosing their details, install malware and even send money.

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