The Patience of a Volunteer?

I taught my mum to use the computer.  And it took the patient of a saint.  I love my mum, but I got very close to breaking off all contact and going out to adoption.  To be fair, she got close to disowning me.

At the time I suggested that just as you should never get your husband/wife to teach you to drive (it took her 20 years to take another lesson after my dad tried to do just that), your children shouldn’t teach you to use a computer.

However, we got through it, and we’ve both been very glad of it so many times.  When I lived in Sri Lanka, my mum was able to use Skype and it really felt like we weren’t so very far away.  We’ve booked holidays together, looked at sofas online when she wanted advice and checked out films we’ve wanted to watch and where to watch them together.  All of this, when I lived 200 miles away.

I’m also reassured that my mum’s new skill will help both my parents stay independent, and in touch, for years to come.  However, not everyone is so lucky.  Older people are among the most digitally excluded.  Not everyone has a family member that can help out, or they just don’t want to ask.

For just that reason, we’ve set up MiCommunity, a one-year project funded by GLA’s Team London Initiative.  It aims to match older people and younger people in schools so that both benefit.  Older people get the IT skills of younger people, and the young volunteers get skills which can help them stand out from the crowd.   Both of them, in our experience, have loads of fun.  The project is running in Age UKs Kensington and Chelsea, Barnet, Redbridge, Haringey, Hackney and Enfield.

If you know someone who can benefit in London.  Get in touch. Contact Melissa Raudnask, Project Manager, on mraudnask@ageuklondon.org.uk or 020 7091 2591.

As for me and my mum, I’m proud I could help, and once I got her started, she’s really got going.  Only problem is, she’s after my iPhone now…

Natalie Turner

Natalie joined Age UK London in 2010 after 17 years in the voluntary and community sector in London and after a year’s posting in Sri Lanka, where she helped set up a national volunteering programme for VSO. She has a particular interest in volunteering, mental health and social inclusion across all age groups. As Programme Manager, Natalie has responsibility for managing Age UK’s pan-London programmes, as well as for developing new ones. Current programmes cover health and wellbeing, over 50s employment, widening access to Information and Advice, and piloting models of Support Brokerage and computer access for older people. Contact Natalie on nturner@ageuklondon.org.uk.

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