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More Princess Royal Gardens

Many of you will know we have been working on using old hardware with the Linux Terminal Server Project (LTSP) and now have over 5 networks installed across the city – one of them at Princess Royal Gardens. We got involved because of Ronnie Corbett, the Warden there. Ronnie has written about getting the computers for the senior residents in a write up of the project which makes a compelling argument for making projects like this universal.

From Ronnie Corbett
To Bristol Wireless

Why give computers to the elderly and what good could it do? There are elderly folk or senior citizens who are energetic and outgoing normally, who through sheer loneliness have become depressed, many become depressed just by moving house. They move to a smaller flat in sheltered housing having to lose furniture that will not fit, friends and neighbours become distant, even their Doctor is changed because of boundary changes. The loving daughter or son can no longer pop in as frequently as they used to. The frustrations and the stress of moving are expressed in several ways, constant crying, anger, inability to eat, sickness, diarrhoea, sleeping, body clock changes, a shock to the system. The move was supposed to make them feel safe and better off.

The above is only a short précis of what can happen to our senior citizens. The introduction of computers to the senior citizens bring cries of dissent: “What do we want they for” or ” I can’t use them things not at my age”; and yet show them how to start the thing and away they go I have a couple learning the ECDL now.

How did we start?

It was something that I wanted to do anyway but did not have nor could I find the resources for it, when along came Easton Residents’ Network!! With their help I was able to get a computer in each of our sheltered housing schemes in Easton; well it was a start, we needed training in the use of Linux an absolutely free operating system with no viruses and no porn! Bristol Wireless connected us up to the internet. Bristol Wireless were to do training with the residents but they were beset with all sorts of problems notwithstanding the closing of the Community Centre. I moved from Greenhaven to Princess Royal Gardens around then and just before this time I had been talking to Richard about training and about how much it would cost it, was then he mentioned one server and six or seven clients from then on all I could see were old dears sitting at a bank of computers.

I put out a call for redundant computers and got three from Bristol City Council they were of little use to me so I called Richard and with a lot of mythering and constant prodding and a promise of paying for the installation of the internet he came on board with eight clients and one server. I applied to Quartet for funding for training and got £660.00 to train sixteen senior citizens. eight of them have received 4 x 2 hour periods of instruction, the next class starts in two weeks.

The Guide

Why should older people get involved in ICT ? Whats in it for them? What benefits might they gain? The answers come from both the older people themselves, describing how they use ICT or what they want from it; and from external advocates who argue how it could benefit older people.

The uses

E-mail: Many sheltered housing residents live distant from close kin and friends and communication with them could be problematic, with arthritic hands letter writing becomes more difficult, and handwriting less legible long distant phone calls are expensive. E-mail promotes a rapid, if less personal response; it is an easier and cheaper mode of communication, email clearly tops the list of current ICT usage.

The internet: an encyclopaedic store of knowledge and information: for example about local community activities, about health issues, about similar interest groups (e.g. crafts and hobbies, politics…) with
the possibility of communicating with these groups. The widely advertised possibilities of shopping giving choice and diversity no longer having the home care buying the most expensive items because they are at hand but having sight of items in the store and their prices, booking holidays, choosing a holiday in the comfort of your community room and cutting out the expensive middleman.

A computer suite in the community room encourages interaction and stimulus, a focus of activity (in an otherwise little used area) along with organising outings and getting the right answers to their questions, medical or otherwise by exploring the net.

Impediments to learning

Most older people are not computer literate: their reluctance to remedy this can be summed up as fear they do not understand the technology and its terminology- so different from the scientific principles of some six or seven decades ago, they lack confidence in being able to keep up with others in a tutorial group, feeling that their slowness will inconvenience others and bring shame on themselves. Physical disabilities, poor eyesight, arthritic limbs resulting in difficulty using the keyboard or mouse, or seeing the screen. All of these fears and disabilities can be overcome.

I have enjoyed this project and the company of Bristol Wireless and the Easton Residents Network. I hope that in time I can work with them again.

Ronnie Corbett

3 Responses to More Princess Royal Gardens

  1. woodsy August 14, 2005 at 12:44 pm #

    I read Ronnie’s comments with interest, so much in fact that I sent the link my 73-year old mother who, apart from being in her own home, has also come to using a computer late in life, only buying one last year. She definitely agrees the elderly should be encouraged more to use ICT. The remark near the end regarding overcoming fears and disabilities is particularly well made; people should be allowed and encouraged to progress at their own pace. As to my mother, since buying her laptop she’s been attending open access courses provided by her local authority in Stoke on Trent. To date, she’s done 8-9 courses and has gained both confidence with the technology and made some new friends. We can now communicate regularly be email instead of the old regime of occasional letters full of indecipherable handwriting – an inherited family trait.

  2. mark September 20, 2008 at 4:50 pm #

    Computers for the elderly is a great idea, in theory. Some elderly are more capable than others when it comes to technology.
    No matter how much help they get some older people will only get frustrated and perhaps get isolated further.



  1. Bristol Wireless News » Blog Archive » A visit from Ronnie Corbett - November 26, 2008

    […] the meantime, thanks very much for the biscuits Ron, and your justification for computing for the elderly is still the best we’ve […]