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Making Friends with Computers

Actually, they don’t snarl and they don’t steal our money. They don’t give you an electric shock when you touch them and they don‘t turn into jelly and purple smoke if you punch the wrong button… but hearing some people talk you’d think they did! And it is inevitable some will always find new technology frightening. Think of the fear of electricity in its early days.

Of course, it goes without saying, that computers have transformed every aspect of our lives. So important have computers become that many organisations offer services to help people overcome their fear and ‘have a go’. For example, Age UK has three local bases operating as free Technology Drop-In Centres: Loughborough at the Park Road Tesco on Mondays (1st and 3rd) from 12.30 – 2.30; Rothley Library on Thursdays (1st and 3rd) from 10 – 12; and Syston Community Centre on Wednesdays (2nd and 4th) from 10 – 12.

However, why travel when help is on your doorstep? Barrow library has offered one-to-one internet help using the public computers there for many years. And, since Christmas, four library volunteers have set up ‘Making Friends with Computers’ sessions at the Bishop Beveridge Club. Keith, Peter, Joyce and Annette go to Thursday morning coffee sessions (9.45 to 11.00) and have been kept so busy that extra sessions are now held in the library on Monday afternoons. They use newly acquired laptops: thank you Barrow Parish Council.

I talked to eight people I met at these sessions. There are two main user groups: one wants volunteers to solve particular problems for them; the other is eager to learn how to carry out tasks themselves. There are also at least two groups of partial or total non-users: one looks upon computers as a source of harmless entertainment but may have mastered a few basic skills; the other group has family to do all that is needed. People in this last group see no reason why they should grapple with computers themselves and are sure they are too old.

Tasks that have been dealt with by the volunteers include: sorting out wrong utility bills; registering with the Health Centre for online services and using comparison websites to compare insurance providers. Skills that people have learnt include sending and receiving emails and photos; using Skype and WhatsApp; transferring photos onto a memory stick, using Google and investigating internet banking.

But what did I learn from my visit? Primarily that people who have no access to computers are losing money. This is because they can’t challenge their online accounts or terms of contract or are unable to make comparisons between utility providers. Neither are they able to benefit from short cuts – like having their pensions paid into online accounts instead of queuing at a post office or booking the Health Centre online instead of making a personal visit. Another disadvantage is they can’t know the thrill of talking to a grandchild thousands of miles away or even enjoying free daily communication via Facebook or WhatsApp with friends outside the village.

If you feel tempted, why not turn up at the Bishop Beveridge Club on a Thursday morning? You can watch someone else being helped to start with. Or perhaps there is a group of you who want to arrange your own Making Friends with Computers sessions at a different location. If so ring 416356. The library is anxious to help.

Judith Rodgers

The Events Committee needs your help!
Could you help to put out tables and seating, help behind the bar or with food at Humphrey Perkins whenever there’s a village event? You don’t have to turn up for every event, just come when you can, but we need new blood and extra pairs of hands – especially male ones! Our present blood is getting older! Without your help, the Events Group, which puts on the Centre Stage events and the dances, may not survive. If you join the Events Committee, which means much more commitment, you become entitled to free entrance to all the shows. Ring Anne Perry on 01509 414963 or text 07840197732.