Gransnet created to help old people in Bolton understand modern technology

Helping older people


SOCIAL NETWORK Pam Hayhurst who is editor of Gransnet SOCIAL NETWORK Pam Hayhurst who is editor of Gransnet

FOR most young people, browsing on laptops and smartphones is second nature.

Although for older generations, the world of technology can seem alien, confusing and completely overwhleming.

But now more and more silver surfers in Bolton are logging on thanks to a new online forum and networking site — as well as IT support groups to help pensioners get to grips with technology.
Pam Hayhurst is editor of Gransnet Bolton — a local edition of a social networking site aimed at grandparents and anyone aged 50 and above.

Similar to Mumsnet, Gransnet is an online space for sharing information and discussion — from recipes and gardening tips to child development and relationships.

Mrs Hayhurst, a retired accountant, says getting to grips with the internet can “enrich and empower” older people’s lives.
The 64-year-old said: “I’d had very little experience on social networking sites when I first started as editor and it has been a real learning curve.
“Everyone communicates via email nowadays because it’s practical. I don’t think that should be the only way that people communicate, but I do think that the internet can be an enriching experience for older people. We have discussion threads for all sorts of things, from the misuse of apostrophes or sharing old television adverts. These things can trigger a lot of memories and discussion for older people.
“I think it can also help some people feel less isolated. A lot of Gransnet users have just retired and when you first leave the world of work, it can cut you off from that social contact. Some users will have children or grandchildren living in different parts of the world so it can be a brilliant way to keep in touch.

“My mother is 92 and she has an iPad. She doesn’t use Gransnet herself but she can FaceTime and she’s a good crossword solver so she has the apps for that.”

Gareth Evans, chief officer at Age UK Bolton, agreed that the internet is a force for good.

He added: “The internet and technology can be very daunting for a lot older peoplem but once they’ve had some tuition it can be a real voyage of discovery. It’s fantastic for practical reasons, such as online shopping and grocery deliveries. In terms of helping with isolation, I would say most people still value that face to face contact and nothing can replace that.

“But when meeting up is not possible, it’s another way to communicate with someone. I would say the internet compliments to physical world.”

Of course, there is a darker side to the internet that users of all ages have to be aware of.

Whether it is protecting personal details or online dating, it is important for older users to know the risks.

Age UK Bolton’s computer courses at Farnworth Activities Centre prepares its pupils for any “rogue” websites. Mr Evans added: “On our computer courses, our tutors can give advice about which sites to be cautious about so they don’t get a shock. There’s also a lot of rogue information out there and it’s important people protect their personal data.”

Harold Ogden, aged 67, from Kearsley, was a complete beginner when he started the course.

He said: “My main aim was to learn how to send an email.

“I don’t want to be a rocket scientist but I don’t want to get left behind either. I used to build batteries when I worked so I never had any contact with computers.”

Valerie Schofield, aged 67, added: “I was an absolute beginner too and the prospect of learning how to use a computer was very daunting.

“The course has been quite enlightening really.”

Jim Barnes, aged 70, from The Haulgh, started as a pupil but now volunteers as a tutor at the group.

He said: “I had always had an interest in computers but I had no idea where to start. Once I’d done the courses, someone suggested I volunteered and I’ve not looked back.”

Dawn McDermott is the head tutor at the course and helps her people learn the basics such as logging on to exploring YouTube and using Skype.

Ms McDermott said: “I have always loved working with people and it’s a real pleasure to teach this group.

“Whether it’s following their favourite news presenter on Twitter or teaching them about security, we can help people learn all about the internet.”

People can visit the Bolton Gransnet site at

For more information about Age UK Bolton’s computer courses, call 01204 382411 or go to