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Welling silver surfers reaping the benefits of going online

PUBLISHED: 09:21 10 January 2013

Laurie and Marlene Harmer

Laurie and Marlene Harmer

Archant

There is so much online now - chatting, banking, shopping, music, books - that the days without Google, email, eBay and iTunes seem incomprehensible to many.

Nova De Souza (standing) and Zinda SequeiraNova De Souza (standing) and Zinda Sequeira

But the internet and the benefits it offers remain unexplored territory to more than 5.3million older people in the UK.

It can transform the lives of those who are unable to travel to visit friends, or have difficulty hearing on the telephone, or just feel isolated.

Now a Welling service has been helping elderly people get online for the past two years and its users are reaping the rewards.

The Deepdene Seniors Learning Skills Club, in Deepdene Road, is a charity which runs a number of different activities for people aged 55 and over, including computer courses in association with UK Online for those who want to improve their IT literacy.

Ted and Barbara SouthardTed and Barbara Southard

“It enables us to communicate with our friends who live overseas,” said 78-year-old Barbara Southard, who attends the club with her 82-year-old husband Ted.

Deepdene has more than 30 members, having moved to the borough from Greenwich in January 2011.

Nova de Souza, who runs the club, explained: “Some of them have made their first online purchase since being on the course and others have communicated with their loved ones via email. They’ve all made great progress.

“The average age of our membership is 70 and lots of them haven’t had the opportunity to do something like this before.”

A well as teaching older residents in the borough computer skills, Deepdene aims to promote social inclusion in a friendly environment.

One of the service’s oldest users is 90-year-old Ellen Bailey. She said: “The club is a godsend because of the social and learning activities. I have taken a bet with my family that at 90 years of age I will complete my basic IT course – even if it takes me a bit longer than the others. It will be a great achievement.”

Marlene Harmer, 64, goes with her 73-year-old husband Laurie and has been attending since it started. She was one of the first people to pass the IT qualification and says it has changed her life.

“I wanted to be able to email people and browse the internet without asking for help. Independence is very important to me and this has given me that.”

Age UK is searching for its Internet Champion of the Year 2013 – someone aged 55 or over whose life has been changed for the better by learning how to use the internet who can inspire others – and there will certainly be some candidates at Deepdene.

David Mortimer, head of digital inclusion at Age UK, said: “We know first-hand that the internet can have a massively positive effect on the lives of older people and we know that there are many still to be convinced.”

Deepdene meets every Monday at 11am and Barbara goes every week.

She added: “We know we both have a lot to learn, but we also know there is no pressure so we can go at our own pace.

“Before these classes my computer skills were almost non-existent. The message is you’re never too old to learn.”

n Visit localgiving.com/charity/deepdeneclub for more information or call 020 8855 3795

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