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Older people losing out due to lack of computer skills

Westgate Computer Centre encourages over 65s to learn and improve quality of life

computer training for senior citizensMost people aged over 65 are ‘losing out’ and risk becoming isolated due to lack of computer and Internet skills, according to Wexford-based Westgate Computer Centre.

 “Usage of computers and Internet is growing although as yet has only reached a minority of those aged over 65. Many older people are still losing out and there is a need to reinforce efforts to encourage and enable older people to use these technologies,” explains Elizabeth Browne, manager of Westgate Computer Centre.

 According to CSO (Central Statistics Office) figures for 2008, only 31% of those aged between 65 and 74 have used a computer at some stage and only 22% have used the Internet.

 “Senior citizens, especially those living on their own or in rural areas, need to be encouraged to learn at least the basic computer and Internet skills so they can keep in touch with family and friends, as well as using computers to help them with household tasks, such as Internet banking, online shopping, access government services and also entertainment,” says Elizabeth.

 “It is the world we live in now,” she says. “The Internet allows us to keep in touch immediately and cheaply, this is particularly important for older people. Technology can help them feel connected to the rest of the world and improve their quality of life. We find some older people feel isolated, excluded even in simple things such as TV competitions where giving web addresses is now the norm.”

Westgate Computer Centre, a registered charity focused on bringing disadvantaged members of the community closer to the new technologies, runs computer training courses specially designed for over 65s, adapted to suit their needs and requirements.

“We find that people attending the courses benefit from two points of view: they learn new and valuable skills for their everyday life, and they meet new people with similar interests,” says Elizabeth. “They usually start with the beginners course and move on to other courses to keep learning. We are currently organising a course on Skype so they can learn how to speak to relatives and friends away for free; and a course on Publishing, as many participants are involved in clubs and want to become more involved.

“We also run a progression course exclusively about the Internet, where we teach them about sites that might be useful for them, from health to travel, radio stations and how to get specific information online; mainly sites that are relevant to their age profile.”

The centre has training rooms in Wexford and Enniscorthy but it is also looking to expand to other localities in County Wexford in the coming year. Private lessons are also available at the centre and/or at home, if required. Courses are run all year round.

Those interested should contact Westgate Computer Centre on 053 914 6291. The centre is located in Westgate Yard, Wexford.

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