A lesson learnt from Covid-19 lockdown is how reliant we have become on digital literacy.

Many seniors don't buy things online, and Age Concern Taupō team leader Nikki Halford says lockdown highlighted the difficulties elderly people have accessing online banking and online shopping. A Taupō initiative is a monthly morning tea for seniors so they can learn about online banking and associated safety measures.

"Old people know there are people getting scammed online, and they worry about this happening to them," said Nikki.

Kiwibank stopped accepting cheques at the end of February, with ANZ and BNZ indicating they will phase out cheques next year.

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Nikki says Age Concern New Zealand is currently working with banks to address the needs of older people during the Covid-19 pandemic and says a programme will be rolled out next year that will aim to increase digital literacy among the elderly.

"We need to look at ways to access the knowledge that young people have and engage with older people," says Nikki.

She says lots of families buy phones for their older family members and so increasing digital literacy is not a beginner's course for the uninitiated, but more an extension for older people who already are on the internet. A classic example is Nikki's mum, who lives in England.

Internet safety expert John Parson was in Taupō last week giving free lectures about cyber safety for parents and grandparents. Photo / Rachel Canning
Internet safety expert John Parson was in Taupō last week giving free lectures about cyber safety for parents and grandparents. Photo / Rachel Canning

"Mum already spends quite a lot of time on the internet, mainly emailing. Her first online transaction was to buy a mask, it is now compulsory to wear a mask. She was scared, and she felt forced to do it." said Nikki.

Like many elderly people Nikki encounters, her mum was probably over-cautious, she said, and very nervous about clicking on the wrong thing,

"She was convinced that the internet would steal her money if she clicked on the wrong button."

Nikki said her mum would do anything to avoid internet banking and online shopping, including catching a bus to go into the city so she could go to the bank.

"For the elderly, it's about having the confidence that online shopping is okay."

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Last week cyber safety expert John Parsons held a public presentation in the Tauhara College hall with a special focus on catering for grandparents.

Speaking to the Taupō & Tūrangi Weekender last year, John said senior citizens are easy targets and cyber scammers want to steal their money.

"New Zealanders are frequently the target of international scams and fraud attempts. I have worked with senior citizens who have lost $300,000 to $400,000."

Age Concern Taupō has around 400 members, although anyone can access one of the many groups, events, come to them for advice or use their advocacy services.

Popular events regularly run by Age Concern Taupō are the Steady as you Go falls prevention class, social connection days, morning teas, friendship group with entertainment, and they also run an accredited visiting service for the elderly who are socially isolated. Nikki said there is Ministry of Social Development funding for some of their core services, but overheads such as the rent have to be met through fundraising.

Age Concern Taupō volunteer Yvonne Wharehinga (left), has been visiting Dawn Morley (right) for many years. Photo / Age Concern Taupō
Age Concern Taupō volunteer Yvonne Wharehinga (left), has been visiting Dawn Morley (right) for many years. Photo / Age Concern Taupō

Last Friday Age Concern Taupō was presented with a cheque of $1547 from Finn's Gastro Pub & Beer Garden, the proceeds from a comedy night held last week. Nikki said the donation was unsolicited and she is blown away that in this time when businesses are struggling due to the effects of Covid-19, business owners still think of others and give.

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Nikki says Finn's has had a long-standing connection with Age Concern Taupō - employee Ann Murdoch and her mother Naomi Condon personally making and donating soup every second week for the Senior Social Connection group that meets on Mondays at Rotary House.

Nikki says they are always looking for volunteers to help with the visiting service, and she encourages anyone who can offer companionship to an older person to get in touch. Email nikki@ageconcerntaupo.org.nz, or telephone 378 1199.