Older people and disabled people need extra tech help to stay connected during lockdown

older man usinga. tablet on his sofa

Older people and disabled people are amongst the worst hit by the coronavirus lockdown – they are more likely to be suffering from loneliness and need extra help to use their tech. That's why we're highlighting their freephone helpline and a network of police-checked IT volunteers who can provide free one-to-one support to help with all sorts of tech problems.

We are also running AbilityNet Live! - a series of free online events about staying safe online, staying connected, getting the most from your smart speaker which is being supported by Amazon, RNIB, REd Cross, Microsoft and many other organisations.

More lonely, more isolated

Recent figures show that there are at least 13.9 million disabled people in the UK. Even before the Coronavirus emergency they were much more likely to feel the effects of social isolation. In a recent survey by Scope:

  • half of disabled people of working age said they “always or often feel lonely”,
  • 1.2 million older people said they felt “chronically lonely”
  • 45% of pension age adults are lonely.

Sarah Botterill is from AbilityNet and says that their services are vital to make sure that we don’t overlook the very people who need the most help:

“We’re seeing technology bring us together in amazing ways in these difficult times, with families and friends using online calls to stay connected. Lots of older people and disabled people are really confident about using their phones or tablets, but many of them need extra help when using tech to stay in touch – which is adding to their sense of loneliness and isolation."

“Up and down the country we know that concerned relatives are trying to get their family connected, trying to get them on Skype or Zoom calls or sharing news on WhatsApp. But even when they have a smartphone or tablet what people really want is someone they can call when they need help - someone they can trust who will be patient and not baffle them with jargon."

"That's why we're highlighting our freephone helpline on 0800 048 7642 - anyone can call that and ask any tech question, no matter how trivial it may seem, and it's backed up with a network of IT volunteers."

Patient, trustworthy tech support

AbilityNet IT volunteers have been helping people in their homes for over ten years, and they don’t just fix it and run away – they show people how to do things for themselves and help them feel more confident and independent. They also help them find ways to connect with family and friends, such as getting on Facebook, or using Skype, playing online games or sending emails.

“We are proud to have a network of extremely patient, highly experienced tech support volunteers,” says Sarah Botterill. “They are used to dealing with all sorts of techie questions from people of all ages, And that's why their motto is that no problem is too small for them to deal with, whether it is setting up a new tablet supplied by the family, getting rid of viruses or simply getting the broadband working.”

AbilityNet Live! Free online events for disabled and older people

AbilityNet Live! is a series of free online events, specially developed to answer questions for disabled people and older people who are working or studying from home, or want to stay connected to family or friends. Upcoming sessions include:

  • How to access online learning to stay motivated and learn new skills
  • How to take care of your mental health while working or studying from home
  • How disabled people can use Alexa and other smart speakers to stay connected

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