transport for london techy tea party

Tea and Technology with Transport for London

Last week, Susanna Bass of Transport for London wrote about setting up a Techy Tea Party for older Londoners here at Age UK London. This week, Susanna’s colleague Carmen Muriana Cobo discusses her experience of the day’s events.

Ben John would never have expected to receive more than 11,000 retweets when he uploaded pictures of his grandmother’s search queries to Google.  His grandmother genuinely believed that she was writing to a person at Google HQ every time she typed in her incredibly polite search queries. This is a funny anecdote that went viral on social media, but it highlights the lack of awareness some older people have when it comes to new technologies.

When Susie proposed the Techy Tea Parties as a volunteering opportunity for our team, I didn’t hesitate to participate. I thought that it would be an excellent opportunity to provide a service to older people and learn from them at the same time.

We work in Outcomes Delivery in the Operational Modelling and Visualisation team which means that we test the impacts of proposals before they are integrated on street. According to the Royal Voluntary Service, one in three older people find it difficult to get where they want to go, so it is vital that the technology and public sectors should be fully accessible and easy to be used by all.

Transport for London Techy Tea Party
The Techy Tea Party was a great opportunity to learn about latest schemes being implemented by Transport for London.

During the party, the older people were very curious about our work and they wanted to know the reasons why Transport for London had made some changes in their neighbourhoods and what criteria we follow when implementing projects. It was a very enriching experience because we exchanged opinions about all sorts of topics, including scheme integration, cycling, and pedestrian crossings. They shared their experiences, opinions and knowledge and they were very well-informed on the latest schemes to be implemented by Transport for London.

The Techy Tea Party was a very enjoyable experience that I would recommend to anyone who wants to help older people. The support from Age UK London was brilliant and all the staff were very friendly and willing to help. I cannot think of a better opportunity to help those people who helped us when we were growing up! With a little of our time, we can make a huge difference to their lives and make their day to day lives easier.

It was a very funny afternoon and all the people were lovely and very grateful. We presented what we do at Transport for London and explained the necessity of traffic models. I was simultaneously surprised and amused when each of the guests took out their smart phones and iPads to take notes, especially because I myself have never had an iPad! All the older people were up to date and eager to learn; they only needed a bit of attention for small things that for us can be solved easily.

I was also delighted to discover that they already had some of the apps that we mentioned during our presentation but they just didn’t know how to do certain things. They only needed a few hints to understand how to use them.

I was speaking with a very amusing older man who knew how to use the app but wanted to save the route for a regular journey into his phone, we laughed a lot as we learned how to do that together. I also showed him how he can do screenshots and he showed me his grandson’s pictures. He was very lovely and grateful; I felt that I made his life a little easier by offering just two minutes of my time.

We ate cakes, sweets and crisps and I learned how to make different types of tea using the same ingredients. I had a great afternoon and most importantly, I made the lives of people who have helped us in the past a little bit easier.

Many thanks to Susie and Age UK London for a wonderful afternoon – I would happily repeat the experience!

Carmen Muriana Cobo

Carmen Muriana Cobo is a Senior Traffic Modeller within the Operational Modelling and Visualisation Team at Transport for London. Carmen recently attended one of our techy tea parties as a corporate volunteer.

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