Fighting digital isolation in Croydon with Tea & Tech

Wallee McDonnell seeking help with his laptop. Pic: Eleonora Girotto

In an increasingly digitalised world, some members of the older generation are often finding themselves left behind, unable to do what many of the rest of us now see as second-nature.

But a group of volunteer IT experts have been giving the elderly tools to keep up to speed with new and fast-changing technology at Tea & Tech events.

These monthly meetings make technology more accessible over tea, biscuits, and sandwiches at the Upper Norwood Library

Alan Cox, 82, who has been retired for ten years, told Eastlondonlines: “I come here to solve these little issues with my laptop. They are not urgent, but it is nice to get a little help”. 

The idea behind the event is to provide equal online opportunities to everyone, including older people. 

“Technology might make people feel alienated, but we are here to combat two problems at once: the confusion in facing new technology and the isolation of having nobody to turn to”

Caspar Kennerdale, organiser of the Tea & Tech event, told Eastlondonlines

More than a dozen pensioners attended the event.  

Upper Norwood Library. Pic: Eleonora Girotto

Kennerdale told Eastlondonlines: “If being able to get your benefits is completely dependent on something that you either know or you don’t know, then you can see a distinct imbalance there.” 

After the initial workshop on online shopping, time was dedicated to answering the individual questions. These ranged from touch typing to stopping notifications from popping up on their laptops. 

Lynn Thomas, another organiser, talked about the importance of coming together, and said: “We need to be able to take the first step to get out of the house.” She emphasised how older people tend to be more prone to alienation from the rest of society, and how learning how to stay connected via technology is a good way to combat this.

Even Thomas needed tips on tech, and learning how to type a text message to her daughter, she said: “I will try to practice more and more every day or I will forget”. 

Kennderdale began the programme via his company Clear Community Web. He got idea after trying to teach his father how to use these skills. This experience made him aware of the daily challenges that an older technology user faces. 

Caspar Kennerdale, organiser of the event, and Claire Bishop from Leonard Cheshire. Pic: Eleonora Girotto

Kennerdale said: “That was the first success, to teach the unteachable person how to text”. He still texts me every day now.” 

Kennerdale also helped them navigate their technology providers after he realised they were being seriously overcharged for broadband and technological device purchases.  He said: “This makes people feel silly…this is really a space where they don’t feel silly. They can have a trusted person to turn to, so that if something serious happens, then they know where to go.” 

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