Help, please, for a survey about computers, older adults and feelings…

survey guyI am into the last phase of my computing studies at the UEA and would like some help. Older adults’ use of computers is an area which interests me in particular and the subject of my dissertation. To understand more about how older adults, people aged 65+, use computers, and how they feel about them, I am doing a survey.

To collect as much information as I can over the next 3 weeks I need a bit of help and wondered if you could please spare a moment?

Attached are two questionnaires. One can be completed by an older adult in person, the other can be completed by a friend or relative of an older adult. It doesn’t matter if the older adult never uses a computer or is a super-silver-surfer-geek. I also don’t mind if they really hate computers (I won’t take it personally). All information is valuable.

All responses are anonymous and the data will not be made available to any 3rd parties.

It would be great if you could complete the questionnaire(s) and email them back to me – or post them if you prefer.

Please contact me with any questions or if the questionnaire is unclear.

Thank you for your help.

Best wishes


PS – Do forward this message and the questionnaires to anyone you think might be interested in joining in with my survey.

Older Adult Computer Use – questionniare for relation or friend of older adult

Older Adult Computer Use – questionnaire




Only Connect

poppyIs it indulgent to review a year when the change and developments started in 2014 are only partially completed? Probably. But, to quote E.M Forster from A Room with a View, “Life is easy to chronicle, but bewildering to practice”.

In May I found myself in France with a group of fabulous British and French women – brought together by a project aiming to support women’s continuing professional development (WPCD). It was brilliant to meet a diverse range of women – from young company directors anxious about how to offer their staff opportunities and support without impacting the bottom line; to the stretched middle-agers confronted with demands from children and elderly parents and changing health of their partners AND yearning for self-fulfilment; to older women full of vim and vigour, not prepared to be consigned to pre-determined old people activities. Objectively it is easy to chronicle each similarity and cultural context, wryly observing traditional leitmotifs. But it’s not so easy when you know each person – with all the idiosyncrasies that make her unique.

By being in Caen and walking on the Normandy beach just before the commemoration of the D-day landings I was aware of the shadows left by the men killed there. Each of my sons is on an age where they could have been fighting in 1944. We are lucky.

Endeavouring to take on the challenges of chance and location (and, frankly, taking my own advice to seek employment prospects in IT), I found myself from September at the UEA studying computing. Fair to say it’s not like a being an undergraduate in the 1980s. For a start there’s all these computers…  A doctor friend of mine assures me that the process of learning is not only critical to prevent my descent into decrepitude – but also one that gets better with practice. “It’s like a muscle and the more of a work-out all the little synapses in your brain get the easier it will be to learn more.” I truly hope he is right. It is re-assuring because my progress feel painfully slow – I am hoping for a tortoise-style race win come next summer. The hares will all have made it through the finish posts months earlier. Writing computer code is a skill like any other, you just need to stick at it (OOPS! My unconscious supportive self has slipped out – better than my conscious unsupportive self that alternates between anguish and despair… “You are useless!” and “Why did you think this was a good idea?” being the two favourite mantras of that unhelpful cow).

In November the issue of war and its futility once again had prime place in many thoughts. Seas of poppies extended from the Tower of London to primary schools and beyond. While it is undoubtedly crucial to respect and remember the sacrifices of previous generations, as I reflect on the ceramic poppy made by my daughter I have a strong sense that we have to ensure our young have the confidence and ambition not to be constrained by history. We really are lucky in so many ways, but with such luck comes responsibility to make the most of opportunity. We need to help our young, and ourselves, imagine and build a better future.  A further quote from E. M Forster helps me conclude my thoughts – “Only connect… only connect and the beast and the monk, robbed of the isolation that is life to either, will die.”


Dinosaur Fresher

The_church_of_SS_Andrew_and_Mary_-_St_Julian_of_Norwich_-_geograph_org_uk_-_1547398“I’ll just keep winging it – like I have since I got here” said the young creative writing ‘major’ as he tried to find the Julian Study Centre for his first lecture on Mediaeval history. He had come all the way from university in Kansas – though he had been born in Florida. Given his air of bewilderment, and as Dorothy would have said if she’d landed in the UEA campus instead of Oz “Toto, I’ve a feeling we’re not in Kansas anymore”. For a student from Malaysia being in Norwich is apparently like somewhere with the “air-conditioning on outside all the time” (early days).

Rather unexpectedly I find myself back at university – watching Freshers’ week unfold, though not as a real participant this time. I’ve seen the pre-loved pots and pans sale in the Union (which struck me as an excellent idea – though so many of the items looked pristine I suspect they had never been used). The houseplant sale was colourful and, judging by the overheard snippets of conversation, a great chance to understand folk in a new light. The gentle 6ft 5” giant explaining, with relish, “that plant sucks the guts out of flies while you watch” may have been revealing more about himself that he realised.

Wandering through the stands at the Societies Fair I was struck at what hasn’t changed from the early 1980’s. All the political parties were still there, dressed in stereotype (including the Marxists). There were probably more environmentally aware societies – and I don’t remember a Fetish Society at Aberdeen. Games are still popular with new options like Minecraft and Quidditch – but not bridge. Sadly there was no evidence of an equivalent to the infamous Kite Club.

I’m studying computing – and one feature of my age is that, back in the 1980’s there weren’t any laptops – or computers generally that I remember. We used fiche to find things in the library. As the lecturer started a module with a brief history of the development of the internet and the Web, I had a strong sense of being like a dinosaur sitting in on a session about the ice age.

The economics of study are not the same. How lucky my generation was to have had our tertiary education paid for by the state. Paying fees, however, doesn’t mean you automatically get a degree. As the fabulous Spanish course director pointed out “Just because you pay to join a gym doesn’t mean you gonna get a beautiful body – you still have to apply yourself, prepare yourself and participate… see, that’s an APP” (!)

The smell has changed too. The Union bar used to be a solid nimbus of smoke, hiding those in the gloomy corners completely. Cigarettes burned in saucers; the ritual shake of a beer can to check if someone had put a butt in it before your drank; the rank, stale, stink left by yesterday’s ashtray – those days are gone.

I’m a bit nervous about my new adventure and as the young American and I found the Julian Centre I hung on to her confident words from the 14th century “All shall be well, and all shall be well and all manner of things shall be well.”


Ladies that lunch and worry

women at workI recently attended a lunch for ladies put on by the Norfolk Chamber of Commerce. Ironically, given the theme was economic equality and how to inspire women, this was the first all female lunch the chamber has had in over a decade. In some ways it is easy to understand why – because no one wants to sound like a group of whinging harpies, and because equality should be about not discriminating. Given the stark statistics presented by Dr Haya Al-Dajani, we may have to put our lofty principles to one side for a little. She and her team at the Norwich Business School at the UEA, clearly quantify what we sort of already know.

  • Women are under-represented in senior decision making posts
  • Women earn less than men
  • Women have more part time work that men
  • Women are better qualified than men

The issue isn’t one of men versus women. The issue is about wasted potential, under-utilised and under-rewarded capacity. Why do so many bright, able, intelligent and high performing women leave college super-charged only to find their energies dissolved and eroded and re-directed before they ever get a change to embed family-friendly policies or work-life balance strategies. Part of the reason, and an obvious but species crucial one, is that they take time to have families. As they come away from the nappy zone, often wiser and stronger as a consequence, it is to find their place on the corporate ladder forever gone. Women who don’t have family, or who take minimal time away, can find themselves expected to bridge the gap between bosses (men?) unsympathetic to family challenges and mothers juggling logistics. Pretty irksome all round.

Listening to the women at the lunch it was clear that it the imbalance bothers women, but that there is no one solution – apart from complete overhaul of the whole socio-economic Western capitalist system that started evolving when the industrial revolution kicked-off.  Life isn’t fair – but there are surely a few things we could do every day to make it a little more just. My initial suggestions are aimed at the beginning of the role assigning process.

1.)    Be positively gender neutral with children. This means not just letting girls play cars and meccano, but positively encouraging them to – and not telling boys that Barbie is a toy for girls.

2.)    Ensure all young people have to engage in physical activity including a team-base and competitive sport (yes, have to – bit tough this, but I believe the spirit of the “playing fields of Eton” is the spirit that binds and creates energy. It also improves self-esteem and confidence). The sports media, in my utopia, would broadcast women’s sport more too.

3.)    Engage with school children earlier so that they all get a chance to understand the career choices that are available to them. For example, when the leading engineer from a racing car design company goes to tell a class of Year 10 (15 year olds) all about the beauty of precision engineering it should leave both girls and boys thinking “That could be me in 20 years time!” I believe this would help children not see the glittering prize as a place at university – but understand and embrace all the stepping stones en route to an economically fulfilling lifestyle.

And finally, women – share the good news stories about other women. Support women by mentoring, coaching and listening. Get networking, sharing ideas and championing – and, please, spend more time doing things and less time talking and worrying about it.



Image ©