Older people, new technology – are you struggling to use apps?

I think we can safely say that lockdown has been a one-off experience for most of us. For the lucky ones it’s been an extended holiday in glorious weather, for others quite the opposite. One thing many of us have had in common it seems is our increased use of new technology to communicate with friends and family while isolating.

Since the end of March there has been a massive uptake in the use of social media and apps. Zoom and Houseparty for virtual get togethers, contacting each other by Skype, enjoying free virtual museum tours and live theatre, learning a language with Duolingo, watching YouTube fitness routines to release endorphins and keep us healthy, as well as breathing and meditation apps. Then there are our daily visits on the Covid-19 app, listening to podcasts and audio books, checking out our friends and relatives news on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, browsing Pinterest to say nothing of spending hours on our computers working from home and/or searching for a shopping delivery slot online.

Families have been forced to embrace technology to keep things “normal.” People who never expected – or never wanted – to use digital technology to communicate or work now must, and so they are having to learn how. In particular, this can be a daunting process for the elderly who usually socialise on a face-to-face basis or use their landline to get in touch.

Anyhow, here are a few stories about some less successful attempts to join the new digital generation that I’ve heard from friends and family recently!

No luck (yet) for the nonegenarian

Not my actual Mother, but you get the picture. Unfortunately she didn’t

My 90 year old mother doesn’t do technology. Full stop. She still writes cheques and prefers cash to debit cards. But even she asked me if I could set her up “So I can see you on the computer when we chat” – she meant Skype. So I dutifully dusted off her ancient laptop and took it home to update it. 167 updates later (took almost a whole day) I took it back to her.

I explained how to use it – was a bit tricky as she was in the dining room and I was shouting instructions from the garden (essential social distancing!). She literally had to switch the computer on and click two icons. My sister called her on Skype and they had a chat – my Mother was absolutely thrilled. The following week I popped in to see her and she said the laptop had stopped working. Seems she is now locked out of Google and she can’t remember her password…. back to the drawing board!

Hello. Can you see me?

My friend Catherine had a tiny bit of trouble with the Houseparty app when she first went on it. She was due to take part in her first virtual bookclub group and thought she understood how it worked. “I was lying down having a siesta and woke up and thought I would have a little play around. As the phone was pointing up my nostril I suddenly I heard “Hi Catherine, how are you?” In my panic to switch the camera off and disconnect from the app, I inadvertently dialled the police on 101. Clicked it again and only got voices – couldn’t see anyone! Glad to say I now know what I’m doing but it was a steep learning curve!” Click here to watch a short video with some great tips on how to look your best while on webcam.

Queen of the digital dopes

BackPacking Granny is the self confessed queen of the digital dopes. She told me that her son, trying to keep her interested and stimulated during isolation, sent her his new podcast. She took a deep breath and went on her computer to download it. She then had to phone him because she couldn’t see him, unveiling her ignorance because she didnt know podcast was only sound! Read her full story here.

Butter fingers


“Am loving Whatsapp as it is such a brilliant way to send messages. But, unlike millennials, I am not quite so efficient at typing on a weeny mobile keyboard. So when Grace suggested I download Whatsapp onto my computer, I leapt at the chance – much larger screen so much larger keyboard, which means much larger chance of my fingers hitting the right letters!

“Hey Portal, call Grace”

Talking to my sister on her new Portal

My sister was stuck in shielded lockdown and so she decided to treat herself to a Portal so she could keep in virtual touch with everyone. It arrived in the post – a 12″ x 9″ screen on a stand. “The instructions explained I had to set up an app – I didn’t even know what an app was!” It was clear she needed assistance and so phoned one of her sons who told her to go to Playstore and then go via Whatsapp. “You just have to link it in with your phone and it auto puts your friends telephone numbers in using your Facebook or Whatsapp contact numbers.” Didn’t sound too tricky but it wouldn’t download and I had to go right back to the beginning again. When I finally thought I had it sorted, I called my son on the Portal but he said that he couldn’t see my face and then I realised that I had my hand over the camera eye!” Once it was up and running, I loved it. You simply say “Hey portal, call Grace” and it magically does it. There’s a movement sensor that follows you if you move about in the room while talking. You can download photos and birthday reminders, you can play games, music, videos and YouTube on it as well. Wouldn’t be without it now.

I want to tell you a story…

I may be a bit of a whizz on the back end of our website, the part of Annabel & Grace that our readers never see because it is like the engine room. But hand me a mobile and I’m flummoxed. I find the small screen and tiny keyboard irritating. Which is odd because my 6′ 4″ son has much larger fingers than me and he can type at two zillion words a second. Anyhow, I decided to download Audible so that I could listen to a story rather than pick up an actual book. In truth, I went round and round in frustrating circles for twenty minutes before I finally managed to download a novel. Relieved, I sat down on a sofa to listen to the dulcet tones of Stephen Fry. Only to find I was so soothed by his voice that I fell asleep! So, instead, I now listen while on my daily walk. That necessitated a fruitless search for my mobile headphones – in the end my son had to post me some which, in truth, either keep popping out of my ears or make them sore. But, despite that I’m now really enjoying listening to audio books and heartily recommend it. By the way – a tip from my savvy friend Claudia – you may find that your local library has audio books that you can listen. In West Sussex we can borrow 20 eAudiobooks for up to 21 days – absolutely free of charge!

If you would like to learn more about any of the social media and apps mentioned above, simply click on the blue links to go through to the various websites and, if you would like, download onto your mobile, iPad, laptop or computer.