Tell me about old people using computers in lockdown

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Tell me about old people using computers in lockdown. What new skills are they learning? What new apps and online games and services are they using?

(I say “they” but I include you, if you are old like me.)

Many old people have a fresh new relationship with their computers in the year of COVID-19. Their computer (or smartphone or tablet or other device) is no longer seen as a nuisance or even an enemy but as a brilliant friend, full of surprisingly helpful tricks. I know that’s a sweeping generalisation. But for many, it’s true.

All through the merry month of May, M365MAY AUSTRALIA & NEW ZEALAND will present talks and workshops in a grand tech-for-business conference, lockdown style. Obviously you will watch from your own bubble, and it’s all free.

When I was invited to present, I was thrilled! Ecstatic! Fainting with delight! And you know why. I had been scheduled to speak at two conferences and a book festival this year, plus a book launch and various associated readings. Then everything changed: the pandemic struck and I became an old person in need of protection and all those delightful professional events were cancelled or postponed.

That’s what makes M365MAY so cool, from my point of view. So, you mean, after all, there’s another world out there, a world I used to know? I was gobsmacked—bring it on.

I’m gathering stories of older people upskilling in lockdown

I’ve given myself 20 minutes to cover six aspects of this topic, culminating in stories of old people using computers differently in lockdown. I keep hearing about older people who, since the pandemic reared its ugly head, have acquired new digital skills. I know people in their 70s and 80s who for the first time have learned to:

  • use online banking
  • host ZOOM meetings
  • join ZOOM and MS Teams meetings for every conceivable purpose
  • exercise and dance and sing to YouTube videos
  • join Twitter and start tweeting
  • read and comment on blogs
  • listen to podcasts.

Please tell me your stories about old people using computers in new ways

What changes of this nature have you noticed? Tell me about new digital skills that people over 65 are learning in the coronavirus pandemic. I want to know more about old people using computers creatively in 2020.

This historic time, dark and scary, is a teachable moment because when we need to learn something, we tend to learn quickly. There are so many rewards right now for those with the confidence to tackle something new online. When we are physically isolated, all sorts of online activities can take on great personal significance. Think of Facetime with your grandchildren or Zoom with your book group or taking online course or playing Scrabble online with your friends or starting a blog.

  1. If you’re over 65, what new things are you doing on your computer (or phone or tablet or other digital device) since the coronavirus pandemic began? What have you discovered? Any new websites? Phone apps? Online courses? Shopping services? Video calls? Photography? Hobbies? Clubs? Entertainment? What else?
  2. You may be observing or helping an older friend or relative who is confined to home. What changes have you noticed in their use of technology in the pandemic?

EITHER tell me your story in the comments section
OR by email: rachel [AT] writing [DOT] co [DOT] nz.
(Read that out loud and you’ll figure it out.)

In advance, thank you for sharing your stories

I see this as a moment to give ageism another clout on the head, don’t you?

No, you are not  hopeless with computers








17 thoughts on “Tell me about old people using computers in lockdown

  1. anne leueen says:

    Our daughter and her family live about two hours from us. Tonight we shared dinner together on Zoom. Our daughter, her husband and our grandson. They were having spaghetti and we were having chicken pot pie. We heard about their day and the thing they had done. We talked about our day. It was not the same as actually being in their house and at their dinner table but it was close! This is something we have done since CV19 but never did it before.

    1. Rachel McAlpine says:

      Thanks, Anne. This is all grist to my mill.

  2. I read the owner’s manual and found out that my husband’s car could use his phone to read and reply to text messages. I’m glad I learned something new, even if he didn’t want me to pursue it. I read more and can now have my phone read appointments from my calendar. I wouldn’t call this exciting, but it was fun.

    1. Rachel McAlpine says:


  3. Sadje says:

    I am 58, so no worthwhile contribution from me. 😍

    1. Rachel McAlpine says:

      But how about your older friends and family?

      1. Sadje says:

        Not that I know off at the moment.

  4. joliesattic says:

    I am definitely doing what I’ve always done on computers, though I have added more blogs into my inner circle. I am also shopping but not buying more. I can plan what I want ahead of time, so that any trip I may make will be more efficient.

  5. Both my parents, mid 70s and early 80s, have phones and laptop/desktop. Mom uses Skype even, found it challenging to install but got it working. I had her load a chat app (WhatsApp which I dislike but everyone we know uses it) on my dad’s phone for video on the handhelds with various children and grandchildren but main reason they don’t use it is the phone screen is too small. Skype loaded on the big monitor at their desk is perfect for a sit down chat. They can see better. 🙂

    1. Rachel McAlpine says:

      That’s good to know. Phones are harder to manipulate, too, if you have arthritic hands.

  6. Hi Rachel,

    Congrats on your speaking engagements! I turned 68 at the beginning of the lockdown…my first birthday, ever, spent all alone! I have a blog, but my local daughter has always taken my pictures for me. My android phone does take photos, but I had never learned how to do it. During the pandemic, I have been making an effort to find more freelance writing and editing work, on platforms such as Upwork. One project that I secured was to write an essay about what I do to relieve stress. So, I wrote about spending that birthday alone and how doing some meager gardening on my balcony really helped me. I had a photo my daughter had taken of me previously on my balcony, but the editor wondered about a photo of my plants. I had to try! So, I figured out how to take a decent photo with my android. The biggest problem was transferring that picture to my computer. I knew how to connect with the cord, but the upload wasn’t working. I spent an entire afternoon with the directions I found online, trying different things. I finally got it and felt VERY proud to have done so. Then my essay was complete!

    Good luck with your event!


    1. Rachel McAlpine says:

      Becky, thanks so much for your story, perfect for my needs.

      1. You’re so welcome!

    2. Rachel McAlpine says:

      And congratulations on the leap forward you just made. Have fun!

      1. Thanks:)

  7. I’m not hopeless with a computer myself, but I belong to a book club with a few folks who think they are. We are moving our discussions to Zoom. We’re going to have a practice meeting first to deal with all the technical issues. Then we’ll do the real thing as quickly as possible in our 40 free minutes.

    My impression of Zoom is they don’t have very good info in their knowledge base and their help videos aren’t attuned to folks with bad eyesight – a problem for many elders like myself.

    1. Rachel McAlpine says:

      That sounds likea good plan, Virginia. I haven’t looked at the Zoom help videos but I will. They’re all the more important now.

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