Why Getting Up To Speed In Cyberspace Opens Up New Vistas
Jim Green created his own retirement masterplan when he retired a few years ago. Now in his seventies he enjoys runs his own internet business. He is based in Glasgow.
There are currently 12.6 million websites devoted exclusively to the of retirement, which makes this chapter an important add-on what to you have just read. We are still on the IT learning curve and now at alternative routes for getting you up to speed in cyberspace. There is so much you can do to enrich your retirement when you take time out to investigate the possibilities, and it is easy because the internet abounds with free online courses, learning materials, tools, and contrasting third-age interests when you know where to look. If you are new to the wonders of cyberspace, here are a dozen fresh horizons to explore as you get started:
- 1surfing the web;
- 2understanding email;
- 3creating your own website;
- 4mastering new skills online;
- 5planning holidays online;
- 6tracing your ancestry online;
- 7locating lost friends online;
- 8making new friends online;
- 9researching your favourite topics online;
- 10finding hobby options online;
- 11going window-shopping online; and
- 12joining a third-age community online.
Discovering one thing leads you to discover another, and it should never be a chore. You don’t even have to own a computer to partcipae-all you need is your ticket to free public-library online facilities. Even so, you will have questions about exploring fresh horizons online, so let us try to anticipate a few.
Isn’t surfing the web just for kids?
Not so, according to official research findings. A recent Forrester Survey (the internet’s research arm) reveals that 32.7 percent of all regular web users are over 60 years of age. This startling statistic can be evidenced by visiting any public-library online section, where there is always a goodly sprinkling of grey hairs among the students cramming and the kids hammering the game consoles. Third-age people are swarming in droves to the internet and using it for entertainment, education, and enlightenment. Couldn’t you benefit from joining your peers and surfing the web to open up new vistas?
Isn’t it a bit late to be dabbling with email?
It is never too late to get up to date. Coming to terms with email is almost a priority nowadays. Email is the fast, easy, modern way to keep in touch with friends, children, grandchildren, and, for some of us, great-grandchildren. It is simple to operate, saves on time, and needn’t ever cost you a penny. There are hundreds of free online providers with whom you can subscribe, obtain your own email address, and access tuition if required. My personal favourite is www.hotmail.com because of its range of ancillary services, most of which are especially useful for active retirees.
What would I do with a website?
Just a few years ago, if you were not acquainted with hypertext mark-up language (HTML), you would have struggled to build a website. Not so nowadays with the advent of point-and-click electronic tools. They make website creation as simple as building a structure with Lego blocks. So what could you do with your own website? You could treat it as a project to:
- chart your own achievements and those of your family;
- trace your ancestry;
- start a business in retirement (see also Chapter 7);
- impart your accumulated knowledge to others (see also Chapter 9);and
- develop a hobby interest (see also Chapter 10).
Why not give it a go using a free service such as www.freeservers.com to begin with? Once you get a taste for website creation, you might want to move on to building a second, third, or even fourth website like the 78-year-old webmaster featured in Chapter 10.
What is a ‘blog’ and what could I do with one?
A blog is a website with a difference; it’s your own personal online diary and it takes only minutes to set up. Use it to record daily highlights in your third age adventure, pass on tips to other surfers, and have them do likewise for you.
Visit www.blogger.com, sign up for free, and start your own blog today.
How much does it cost to master new skills online?
In truth, it needn’t cost you a penny. Start off your search with www.coursepal.com, an extraordinary free website tool that allows you to access syllabuses of third-age interest
courses in every conceivable category from worldwide universities and further education colleges (Fig. 5.1).
Registration will cost you nothing, as will right of entry to the majority of the comprehensive tutorials listed at this website. Moreover, complementing the public-sector options we have already convered, the aptly named website www.free-ed.net opens the doors to starting places for alternative free education on the internet: no books to buy, no hidden fees, and complete tutorials for more than 120 disparate vocational and academic disciplines, including:
- accounting and bookkeeping
- marketing and sales
- personal finance
- administration and leadership
- early childhood education
- educational methods
- human ecology
- English as a second language
- modern languages
- classical languages
- performing arts
- earth sciences
- civil and construction engineering
- industrial engineering
- mechanical engineering
- clinical diagnosis and treatment
- anatomy and physiology
- pharmacy and pharmacology
- computer information systems
- computer languages and scripts
- core mathematics.
Why plan holidays online?
When you use the internet to plan a holiday, you provide yourself with a valuable edge: the option to conclude the deal online or offline as you prefer. Employing the web as a research tool, you eliminate the one-to-one interface in gathering background data for every imaginable type of holiday, from pitching a tent in Cumbria to luxuriating on a Caribean cruise liner. Wherever your proclivities lie, you need to have access to resources to get the best out of travel in retirement. You need an entree that lets you in on all you need to know in advance of commitment. Chapter 12 presents you with an all-in-one holiday guide, containing a compendium of links for online planning, which will be of equal value if you decide to effect buying decisions offline.
Wouldn’t it prove difficult to trace my ancestry online?
Tracing your ancestry makes for a highly interesting and fulfilling retirement project, one that isn’t at all difficult if you go about your research in the correct manner. Very simply, the rule is to begin with the information that you know for certain to be accurate and, using this as a basis of fact, trace backwards in time. Starting with your own birth certificate, you can locate the full names of parents, their ages, and where they lived at the time you were born. With that information alone, you are off to a great start.
Draw up a family tree of your relatives as far back as you know. This helps to give you a clear idea of what you still need to find out and whom you need to contact to find this out. Now you can go online to complete the job. You have many options, but you may wish to visit www.familyfinding.co.uk, a website that provides low-cost tracing of blood relatives. To keep your records, you will either need a folder, a large notebook, or suitable computer software. Personal Ancestry File version 5 is recommended. Visit www.familysearch.org and download it for free.
How do I go about locating lost friends online?
Sometimes you can strike lucky by using a search engine facility. Employing this basic approach I managed to trace a friend I hadn’t heard from in over 30 years, but that was only because he had estabilished a minor claim to fame (his name came in at no. 53 on a list of over 13,000 entries). Your best bet is to invest a few pounds in registering at a website that specialises in locating lost friends. One of the best is www.ukig.co.uk.
How do I make new friends online?
Register for free at one of the third-age communities listed a little further on in this chapter. You will discover several alternatives for striking up new friendships. The best way to start is by joining a discussion forum. You could also post a message on the bulletion board, but be very careful how you approach this option. You don’t want to invite a potential voyeur to enter your life.
How do I research my favourite topics online?
Conduct an online search for newsgroups that focus on your particular area of interest. No matter how outlandish the topic, you can be assured that will be many other people who share your passion and are only too willing to share research, published articles, and theses on the prescribed subject matter. Couple this tactic with a separate search on www.google.com using appropriate keywords.
Where do I look to find hobby options?
Use a recognised retirees’ search facility (see below). Type in a key phrase such as ‘retirement hobbies’, and away you go. You will be presented with hundreds of useful options. You might also visit the portal website www.retirement-matters.co.uk (Fig. 5.2), which has links to 35 hobby interest websites, including antiques, art, bridge, chess, crochet, dancing, museums, and writing, among others. Add these to the list of more than 50 retirement hobbies discussed in Chapter 10.
Why go window-shopping online?
Cast your mind back 20 years or so to the prototypes of today’s out-of-town electronic superstores. In the main they were cold uninviting sheds stuffed with cardboard boxes containing branded merchandise. Before you would consider making a purchase at one of these barren outlets, you would invariably visit your local high-street electricity showroom to compare prices and (equally important) obtain the vital product knowledge that was rarely forthcoming at the discount stores. Then, if price was the prime consideration, you would hand over your cash at one of the sheds and collect your box at the counter.
Online window-shopping is the modern equivalent of this scenario, except that it eliminates trolling around stores and presents you with everything tap-price comparisons and specifications from all the major chains-so enabling you to make a value judgement as to whether you buy online or offline (and online is a temptation because of the pounds clipped off to boost web sales).
Why join a third-age community online?
There are available to you, free of charge, several exclusive senior citizens’ portals that lead to a myriad of resources to enhance the third-age years. They aren’t to everyone’s liking, and there is only one way to establish whether participation in one of these communities might suit you: investigate the possibilities.
Let us review the benefits accruing when you register your intrest at these remarkable cyberspace portals. Then, we will round matters off with the web addresses of three portals worthy of exploration. The first portal (Wired Seniors) provides an international network of links, while the other two portals (Retirement Matters and 50Connect) give links to UK websites. In essence what they all provide is a one-stop resource for active retirees with features such as these.
- Retirees’ search facilities: These aren’t ordinary search engines; the emphasis is on third-age projects designed exclusively for the over-50s.
- Discussion forums: Jump right in and start a discussion on any topic you like: government, politics, the weather, health concerns, social security issues, whatever. You name it, and someone will be interested in your views. Of course they may not agree with them, but they will be interested enough to post a reply. In no time at all you will have a lively, healthy discussion going with seniors from around the world. Discussion forums are the place to share ideas, opinions, and friendship with other members.
- Bulletin boards: Messages posted are divided into categories to make them easier to browse. If you prefer, you may also search through the aggregated communications using the keyword option tool.
- Retirees’ radio: The radio service www.wiredseniors.com is a vital part of the network that makes up the Wired Seniors portal. It offers an extensive variety of retirement-oriented information and programming. To listen in, you will need a player loaded up to your computer. That isn’t a problem, because you can download the appropriate software for free at the website. The player software does all the work of taking the audio and video from the web and translating it into a format that you can hear and watch on your computer.
- Retirees’ discount malls: All of these malls have special price deals for seniors, or in some cases, offer special service for retirees. Merchants from around the world are featured. Browse around to see what they have to offer.
- Retirees helping retirees: Third-age people have a great deal of experience and knowledge to contribute to society. Perhaps visitors can help you, or you can help others, by answering questions that you or they may have in categories such as these:
- computer hardware
- computer software
- home maintenance
- Scam reports: Retirees are a favourite target of scam operators. The Wired Seniors portal emails special scam bulletins to members from time to time, as well as posting some of the more common rip-offs on the portal website.
Wired Seniors (www.wiredseniors.com)
The Wired Seniors portal is the central hub of many international websites relating to seniors (Fig. 5.3).
It is the global gateway to a wide variety of retirement-oriented information and resources.
Retirement Matters (www.retirement-matters.co.uk
The Retirement Matters portal comprises ten UK websites covering:
- 1UK, overseas, and specialist travel
- 2, finance, pensions, and annuities
- 3news headlines; special offers
- 4penfriends, genealogy, reunions, and friends
- 5an eyecare, health, and GP forum
- 6care services, mobility, hearing, and charities
- 7motoring and online shopping
- 8leisure, hobbies, entertainment, sports, and pets
- 9home and garden; retirement homes
The UK-based portal 50Connect focuses on a multifaceted selection of retirement topics housed in 25 individual ‘channels’.
Wiring up for the third age has practical advantages
We need all the help we can muster in our quest for fulfilment in retirement. Getting wired up in cyberspace assumes increasing importance as you dig more deeply into its potential: entering one avenue prompts you to scrutinise another. Only recently in my web wanderings, I stumbled across something to my personal advantage — the website www.veteransagency.mod.uk — which may also be of interest to those of you who, like me, are veterans the armed forces (I served with the RAF during the Korean conflict). The website contains lots of interesting information for retirees. Among the facts-packed pages, I recently discovered that veterans may be eligible for assistance with energy savings. Grants (sometimes covering all costs) are available for retirees receiving war pensions and other benefits. These grants may apply to a range of products from cavity-wall and loft insulation to central-heating systems. Upon further investigation, I also determined that even if you aren’t a veteran, you may find it worth your while to contact the following to find out what additional help is available offline.
- Warm Front: Phone 0800 952 0600.
- Your local authority/council: Check your local phone book for contact details.
- Energy Savings Trust: Phone 0800 512 012.
- Energy companies: Contact numbers will be displayed on your gas or electricity bills. You can also contact other energy suppliers to establish what help they can provide.
- Staywarm: Phone 0800 1 694 694. Staywarm has a scheme designed for the over-60s, and it works like this. However much gas or electricity you need, you pay a fixed low price – weekly, fortnightly, or monthly. The amount you pay is based on the number of people who live in your home and the number of bedrooms it contains.
Get wired up in cyberspace and add flavour to your retirement with the practical advantages you will gain. Don’t be put off if you don’t have a computer connected to the internet. Use the free services we have already identified.