What do you do when you're living alone, find yourself now in a downsized business or volunteering, and don't know how to confidently use a cellphone or computer?

The answer from SeniorNet is "join us".

Ian Feasey is a Whangamata SeniorNet tutor and says with Covid-19 putting a halt on club gatherings and keeping many elderly at home, now it is more important than ever to get connected online.

The organisation gathers regularly to help people learn about using technology like iPhones, tablets, iPads and use of "the cloud" for storage.

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He knows that it's a new language for many, but he's determined to see more residents join and learn the benefits of going digital.

"Our age group are not all happy with social media, it's not something you got brought up with. A lot of what we're involved in now, I never had to do with as a kid. It's totally foreign," says Ian.

"There's a lot of men particularly who just haven't got any interest in computing, they're having to come to terms with it because all the communication is done by email. They'll do that but they don't want to go any further."

Nigel Boot, owner of Boot IT in Whangamata, will be speaking at the next meeting of SeniorNet.

Nigel's co-worker Anton Dorreen says the business had helped many older residents reaching out for help due to lockdown, and other changes like the disappearance of cheques and banks from town.

"You have older people who haven't had to get online but going forward there will be a need to buy more online. With cheques disappearing and banks shutting down, there's a need for more skill in online banking," says Anton.

He says most older people find tablets and phones are easier because it's more touch-based and intuitive.

"We do get a lot of people wanting to use Facebook to keep in touch with friends and family, and to learn how Skype and WhatsApp works. They're using Zoom meetings to talk with friends and colleagues and your online communication - when people are unable to go out or are isolating at home - is much more required."

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Anton said the invention of cellphones, social media and the cloud will be covered in Nigel's talk.

"It used to be you pick up a computer and it did what it did, then you switched on your TV and it did its thing. Now it's all together and accessed by the cloud."

Ian is a well-known volunteer in Whangamata and recipient of two community service awards for his work in harbour care, Lions and SeniorNet.

He believes it is becoming essential for volunteers within community groups to have some knowledge of computing and digital technology, and without upskilling older residents, a community risks losing it's most important and valuable pool of volunteers.

Tools available by phone and digital devices includes calendars, maps, communication with others via Zoom or Facetime, and receiving and answering emails.

"Banking is also very important because the options are not there like they used to be. I think Covid has brought home to a lot of people that they need to communicate as best as possible and usually that means using video to talk to one another. We get people involved in committees using Zoom, and that's a really simple way once you understand it," says Ian.

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The smartphone's more than just an enabler says SeniorNet. Photo / File
The smartphone's more than just an enabler says SeniorNet. Photo / File

He says while he believes most people of his age group are forced into taking an interest because the digital world is how the rest of the family communicates rather than speaking by phone, learning the tools is nothing to be feared.

"You won't do any damage to it. You will learn something."

SeniorNet is for everyone, he says. "We had an example of a businessman who has always had office girls, now he's having to try and understand what they were doing.

"What surprises me is a lot of men who aren't willing to upskill. I noticed it with dance, the man would give up because they would rather do something they feel capable of. If they can't do it straight away, they give up.

"It takes patience, an attitude of perseverence."

SeniorNet meeting with speakers chairman Bob Storey and Anton Doreen.
Where: Cornerstone House, 101 Ocean Rd, Whangamata
When: October 16
Email: seniorwhanga@gmail.com or contact Ian direct to reserve your place

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