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Could you support an elderly family member, friend or neighbour to get online?

Become a Digital Companion and help Wales’ most vulnerable re-connect with the communities around them

People in Wales are being called upon to help get more of the nation’s older residents online and support a family member, friend, or neighbour to do the same.

The call has been issued after the most recent National Survey for Wales (2019-20) found 41% of people over 75 and 19% of people aged 64-75 are classed as digitally excluded, while half of those aged 70+ say access to groceries, medication and essentials has also been affected by Covid-19.

Dewi Smith, of Digital Communities Wales, said: “The pandemic has highlighted the importance of getting people online, yet we know that in Wales about 10% of adults are not, and that this is particularly true of older people.

“For a lot of older people who are not online, the best person to help them is a trusted friend or family member who knows them well and can work with them one-to-one to overcome their fears and build their confidence – they need someone to be their Digital Companion.”

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Peter from Carmarthen is one of those already helping others in his area to get online where previously they have not had the means or expertise to do so.

Peter, 73, has been a digital volunteer for more than 10 years and is currently using his background in IT to help others as a volunteer with U3A Carmarthen, Age Cymru Sir Gar and RVS.

Peter said: “There’s certainly a feel-good factor, and volunteering is certainly about that, but you can also learn a lot too.”

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Meanwhile Dorothy is among those who have already been supported to use the internet, after receiving an iPad on loan from Wrexham County Borough Council. With help from her grandson Harry, Dorothy now uses her iPad to keep in touch with her cousin in Bala and friends as far away as Canada.

She said: “The first thing I did was finding out how to do online shopping, and after one or two tries I got there in the end, and now it’s great.”

“And with Google, the world is your oyster, if you want to find anything, anywhere in the world, you can find out now. You don’t feel as isolated and I think that’s very important,” she added.

Launched by Digital Communities Wales in conjunction with Age Cymru, Wales’ Older People’s Commissioner and the Welsh Government, the Digital Companions initiative is based on the simple premise of a friend, neighbour, or family member helping someone they know to use the internet. With this help, some of the country’s most vulnerable and isolated residents can improve their digital confidence and re-connect with their loved ones, wider communities, and vital services around them.

Dewi added: “Thanks to people like Peter and Harry, Digital Companions have already had a high success rate in helping people who are ‘harder to reach’- for example those unable to attend group activities outside the home and those living alone with no family support.

“And so, we are appealing to more people to come forward and help out too – people with a couple of hours spare – whose time and experience can help some of Wales’ most vulnerable and isolated residents at a time when they have never needed to be more in touch with the world.

“If you know someone who isn’t making the most of the digital world or is struggling to get online, why not ask if you can help them? You don’t need to be an IT whizz – you just need to be familiar with using the web yourself and be patient, caring and a good listener. Digital Communities Wales has ideas and resources to help you to do your bit and make a difference,” Dewi said.

More information on how to become a Digital Companion, or to introduce someone you think could benefit from the scheme, visit Digital Companions (gov.wales).