Rise of silver surfers

PUBLISHED: 08:00 25 May 2008 | UPDATED: 20:29 05 July 2010

JUST three weeks ago Doug Tomlinson had never used the internet - but now he is fast joining a new generation of silver surfers thanks to a new project helping older people overcome their fears.

JUST three weeks ago Doug Tomlinson had never used the internet - but now he is fast joining a new generation of silver surfers.

The 79-year-old from Reydon, near Southwold, is playing a leading role in BT's pioneering Crossing the Divide initiative to tackle widespread technophobia and fear of the internet.

Already he has used the web to track down the best man from his wedding in 1953, and admits he may even start using internet banking.

Mr Tomlinson is among the first people to take part in the eight-week BT course intended to help internet novices take their first steps to getting online.

He is now logging on every day to increase his surfing confidence, and has already found some great uses of the technology.

He said: “Computers were starting to take off when I retired in the 80s, and the new technology just passed me by. I was initially nervous about going online, but now I'm excited about the challenge.

“I'm really looking forward to learning a new skill and maybe changing my mind about ways of doing things - like banking - along the way.”

Through the power of the internet, Mr Tomlinson has found and made contact with his best man from his wedding in 1953, whom he lost contact with in the early 1970s. They have now had a number of telephone calls and aim to meet up again next month.

Following the death of his wife last year, Mr Tomlinson would like to use the internet to stay in touch with friends and family.

He is also looking forward to furthering his knowledge and generally being more technically able. The next technical challenge Mr Tomlinson has set himself, is to video conference with his grandchildren who live in Greece.

He added: “I'm really enjoying the whole experience and world of opportunities this has given me; I can't wait for the chance to see my grandchildren on a more regular basis.”

Mr Tomlinson was curious about the internet but, like a third of the population, had never been online.

He said: “The Crossing the Divide project was a perfect opportunity for me. I had always wanted to try the internet but couldn't see how it would improve my day to day life so just kept on putting it off.

“Getting started has been a lot easier than I thought. I'm amazed by the amount of information there is at my finger tips. What's so exciting is that I know I've only just scratched the surface.”

Nearly one in three people in Britain do not use the internet and research shows fear is often the main reason why these people miss out on a whole range of potential opportunities only available online.

The BT project will see internet novices from across the UK setting out to cross the so-called digital divide.

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