Interview with Joan Wishart, older internet whizz.

If we’re honest, the common perception of older people and the internet can be summarised with ‘where’s the power button’. The common perception is wrong. Grannies from 60 to 90 years of age are hitting the net in much greater numbers than you think.

Last month, we released a report entitled ‘Older Victorians Online’ which detailed our survey findings on a collaborative project we conducted with COTA Victoria. We undertook research to debunk the common perception that older people are not interested or ‘afraid’ to use the internet and/or computers.

The results of this survey reinforces how quickly people are embracing new technologies. While conducting focus groups with a client recently, it became apparent to us that there’s a fascination with technology among those aged 65 and beyond; surprisingly more so than  Baby Boomers or even Generation X or Y.

We see great a potential for learning and remaining abreast of technological developments and trends in the 65+ demographic.

A glowing example of this adoption of new technologies, is my partner’s grandmother – 85 year old Joan (Joey) Wishart. Joey’s all over it. We’re friends on Facebook and, when I learned of our upcoming research, I messaged her asking if she would mind being asked a few questions on the topic.

Here’s how it went. Via email.


What activities do you mainly conduct online?

On a daily basis, I use email, research various topics, read overseas newspaper articles, Facebook, check my local weather forecast, search YouTube for videos of favourite music and bookmark these to play regularly.

Which social media platforms do you use?

I check Facebook entries daily and belong to two social issue organisations.  If I believe in their campaigns I sign their online petitions or participate in their questionnaires.  I don’t subscribe to Twitter.

Who do you interact with on social media platforms?

I interact with friends and family on Facebook.

What do you like the most about having access to the internet?

It allows me to keep in touch with the outside world.  As a housebound carer of an aged partner, my options to interact with people face-to-face are limited.

How does having access to the internet make you feel?

I believe this connection to the outside world has made me happier than I would be without the internet.

Do you have any concerns about going online?

I do have concerns about opening and exploring online sites that might expose my computer to a virus.  Neither do I wish to encounter any offensive sites.

Have you ever left a comment or feedback online?

The only comments I make are either on Facebook or a response to the material from the two social justice issue groups mentioned above.

What would motivate you to leave a comment/feedback?

If I feel strongly about a social justice issue I paste the link into Facebook to publicise the issue and, hopefully, gain another signature for the petition. My Facebook comments are in response to a photograph or post on which originate from friends/family.

How does the following statement make you feel?
“In the future the government plans to engage with people more online”

This would depend on the content of the government’s online material.  If it’s a site devoted to information designed to help people e.g. government services, I would support such a plan.  I would not support any plan for online government propaganda or ideology..

How would access to government services online impact you?

I have used the online government services sites quite often and find them very helpful.  Saves a lot of time waiting for an operator when phoning an agency.

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The most compelling outcome of Joey’s social media use (to me), is the relationship and connection we have developed because she’s using that medium. I can keep up with what she feels and thinks more regularly than if I relied upon a rare trip to Castlemaine. By the content of her posts and the social issues she chooses to champion and share on Facebook, I learn from her. And that’s important because she’s one wise lady.

>> Download the Older Victorians Online Report and share your views here or on Facebook. Follow the Ellis Jones Health & Ageing Twitter feed.

image credit : Eelco