,Video calls with relatives, online shopping from home... there are countless reasons to help get older people around you set up online. — dpa What if I break something? Many older people are scared of the endless possibilities and risks in the online world. And yet there's too many great things for them to discover for them to stay offline. But experts say asking a grandchild for help isn't always best.It can be scary for older people going online for the first time, or if they are not too familiar with the workings of the digital world.However, it is worth exploring especially as the pandemic has shown that it is a useful way to keep in touch and exchange information, says Lisa Groeschel, a state media educator who works in Germany.Increasingly, information about critical services is available online. Users can find their way to the doctor using local transport apps, for example, or find the latest updates on current affairs on news sites.All in all, being able to navigate the online world makes people more independent, and brings them greater social interaction, says Janina Stiel, who works for a care group for the elderly.That's not as easy as it may sound, for many. Some are fearful about using technology, whether it is the process of learning how to navigate a new device or handling the many programs and apps."Many older people are also afraid of breaking something," says Roswitha Uhde, a digital expert who mentors older women using the internet."I tell them, you can rarely destroy something with one click and the Internet can't be deleted anyway."Those venturing online need the right equipment to connect to the Internet. Whether the right choice is a laptop, a tablet or a smartphone depends on the person's needs and interests, says Stiel.Many older people feel more comfortable with a tablet because they find the larger text and images easier to deal with than the smaller display of a smartphone.Meanwhile for those who want to go online when they are out and about, for example when hiking, a smartphone works better.Just as with the device, the question of the type of internet access to choose also depends on the user's individual needs.Those going online mainly at home, say to watch television programmes on catch up or talk with their families online would be best advised to get an Internet flat rate with a router for WiFi.Users who only occasionally go online to check something or see pictures through a messenger service would be fine with a mobile phone contract with a limited amount of data.In general, once you have the technology, then experts say start off by pursuing something you are really interested in. That could be finding new knitting patterns online, say.Some good initial steps are to set up an email account and use search engines like Google or DuckDuckGo. For many, it's helpful to note down the stages involved in sending an email, for example.Later, installing and trying out different apps are good next steps. "Apps are a good way to structure Internet use," says Groeschel.While many may advise older people to seek help from their grandchildren if they encounter problems, this may not always be the best advice.Older people access technology quite differently than younger people who have long been familiar with search engines and social media or who may never have known life without them, says Groeschel, who cautions family members might not be the best place to look for advice.If users are based in cities, often, there are volunteer groups who provide advice and guidance on a drop-in basis, says Groeschel.That's a good place where older people can be treated as equals as they venture out as those providing the advice and sharing their experience are often older too. – dpa
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