Posted by: crustynomad | March 31, 2008

‘You’re too old for the Internet!’

A few months ago I read an article that implied that the decision as to whether the older generation could own a computer and access the Internet was being taken for them. As a business, this is a very dangerous game to be playing – have they never met my Nan?

You cannot escape hi-tech technology in the world these days with computers now comfortably outselling TVs in the UK at least. Outside the office where I work there are no less than four mobile phone shops within 30 seconds walk and a brand new Maplin’s gadget shop is accessible if you are prepared to walk for a further 30.

Certainly with mobiles we must surely be approaching saturation point with everyone who wants a phone, owning one. Computers and the Internet on the other hand are a slightly different proposition as there are still a great many people out there who dare not join the on-line world.

Anyway, the story, which featured in The Daily Mail in the UK, involved a lady by the name of Shirley Greening-Jackson who had just trekked along the Great Wall of China and was well down the road in terms of preparation for a trip to Russia. She was told in her local computer store that she couldn’t take order her chosen Internet service because…she was too old!

In order to be allowed to sign up for the phone and broadband package, the 75-year-old was informed that she needed the assistance of a younger member of her family to explain the small print to her.

It was apparently company policy not to accept anyone over the age of 70 because, ‘they might not understand the contract’. Quite understandably, Mrs Greening-Jackson was furious at the implication that you lose your mind once you reach the age of 70. It’s ageism at its worse.

New laws have been passed that outlaw ageism in the workplace in the UK but charities such as Help the Aged feel that consumers need protection too. To assume the knowledge and understanding of a person is deeply insulting and is a terrible way to run a business even the decision is done with the best of intentions. You cannot use arbitrary ages to set such rules and common sense should apply.

While all this is completely absurd I did have to smile because of the total lack of technical nous in my parents household. They don’t have a computer or satellite TV and they only recently got a microwave. It was also only after a series of crisis meetings with other elderly relatives did they agree to take on my old pay-as-you-go mobile though they don’t dare turn it on in case the battery ran down.

My father was bought a DVD player for his birthday last year so we had something we could buy him for future Christmas/birthdays such as Jacque Tati films and Fred Dibnah documentaries as he has no real hobbies, doesn’t read books and already has enough socks and hankies to kit out the army of a former Yugoslavian Republic.

I even made a DVD of the photos from their 50th wedding anniversary recently and deliberately formatted it so it played automatically but he still had to ask which way to put the disk in.


I’ll leave the Internet I think – it’s a battle not worth fighting.

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