Seventy per cent of people aged over 65 in the UK have never used the internet. In a time when personal communication, social networking and the supply of services is being revolutionized by technology, older people are being largely excluded. The Government is concerned enough about this to have introduced a panoply of initiatives to overcome digital exclusion, many of which are aimed directly at older people. But the dominant reason older people say they don’t take up or haven’t sought access to the internet is that they don’t feel they need it.
In a large kitchen, 20 women are ranged around two large tables, making chapattis. Their average age is in the mid 70s and they come here every day. Anyone can turn up and the women will feed them. They provide lunch for hundreds, making enough food to ensure that anyone who comes can be fed at any hour of the day or night.
I visited them this week at the Sikh temple in Handsworth, Birmingham, the Gurudwara Nanak Nishkam Sewak Jatha, which was part of the inspiration for Agebomb. A few months ago I arrived at the Gurudwara to research a newspaper article about the possibility that the community might set up its own school. It was an interesting story, but what I was mainly struck by was the extent to which old people are essential to the Gurudwara’s success.