In February, AbilityNet was contacted by 80-year-old Ruth from Lincolnshire who had been told by Age UK about the free computer help available via our IT Can Help service. Ruth worked as a nurse until she was 77 and has a zest for life, but has recently become less mobile following heart surgery. She needed help using her laptop, so AbilityNet sent local IT Can Help volunteer Allan (pictured) around.
“I have a newish computer that I probably only switch on about once a week, but I'd never quite worked out how to use email and do certain other things on it,” says Ruth. "Allan helped me with this and also showed me how to do online shopping. I used to drive to town to do my shopping until just a few weeks ago, but haven't been able to recently as I've become a little more frail.”
Allan, who works on creating large scale IT systems in his day job, became a volunteer with IT Can Help more than five years ago and has been visiting Ruth once a week since February to get her more comfortable using her computer.
Connections, support and shopping
“I've volunteered with a number of different people through the service over the years,” says Allan. “I am passionate about technology and wanted to do something for people who are challenged by IT, so I contacted the council to ask what I could do and they put me in touch with AbilityNet.
“Ruth is a fantastic lady with an interesting life and I've really enjoyed getting to know her and being able to support her. I've put a few shortcuts on her computer desktop so she can get quick and easy access to online shops.
“She was also unsure how to open and read her email, but can now do this. As well as this I've advised her on internet security and protecting her information,” says the volunteer. Ruth adds: “These things aren't second nature when you don't use a computer often.”
Beyond the call of duty
But the help Allan's offered goes above and beyond helping with IT tasks. “It sounds morbid, but it's not - there's a piece of music I want one day at my funeral," Ruth explains. "I've tried to find it for ages. Allan found it for me. Not only this, he has also helped me find my long lost brother who I haven't seen for 20 years.”
Allan explains: “When I first visited Ruth I was shocked at how youthful she was for an 80-year-old lady who had just had heart surgery – a real inspiration to us all. I usually stay for a chat and Ruth started telling me about her childhood and how the only family she had left was her brother who she hadn't seen for two decades. I was determined to find him and paid £5 for the local electoral roll after an internet searched gave me more information about where he might live. They are now hoping to meet up.
“Ruth is a big classical music fan and I also helped her find her favourite classical music track to complete her funeral plan – it was by Clare College Choir.”
Allan will keep visiting Ruth for a while longer to help with her computer needs before IT Can Help matches him with another of the many people who struggle with IT in the UK. “I really enjoy every single visit I make for IT Can Help,” says Allan. “It brings me so much joy to be able to help people with their computers. I get so much back from it.”
- Read the heartwarming story of how AbilityNet IT Can Help began