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Alchemy Arts

From Staying Away To Embracing Technology: The Impact of TEK Eagles

Like many people his age, Imtiaz Hussain had given up on technology before he came across TEK Eagles. 

The 63-year-old said: “I have always avoided the mobile phone believing that there was very little benefit in its use and perhaps it was too complicated for me. 

“All my life I have survived by using landlines. We did not have mobile phones in the past and had done relatively well.”

Imtiaz is the manager of the Jinnah Day Care Centre in Bury, where Alchemy Arts’ TEK Eagles scheme came to teach members how to reap the benefits of smartphone technology.  

Imtiaz added: “In the very first lesson, the group was asked to give advantages and disadvantages of mobile technology and to my amazement there were only three disadvantages.

“However, when it came to listing advantages the list grew to over 20!

“My wife had left me a mobile telephone before she travelled abroad to look after her mother. I avoided even touching the phone at first.

“I thought I would bring it to the first lesson. I was amazed by the potential of a mobile phone and how easy it was to use. Before long I was using Skype to visually see my wife and her mother and they could see me.

“It was like something out of Star Trek that we used to watch in the 70’s.”

Technology use amongst people aged 50+ is growing but usage is still lower than the younger portion of the population.

In 2019 only 47% of adults in the UK aged 75 and over were recent internet users compared with 99% of those aged 16 – 44.

TEK Eagles was set up by Alchemy Arts as a way of making people aged 50-plus more connected in an increasingly digital world. Classes have run successfully in Bury, Manchester and Oldham.

Outcomes of previous TEK Eagles programmes have ranged from setting up a WhatsApp group right through to creating an art exhibition or producing a documentary. 

Produced by Bury TEK Eagles, ‘Migration Story’ gave the group at the Jinnah Day Care Centre the opportunity to share their experiences of moving to the UK during the 60s and 70s, and talk about the hardship and joy that came with that.

More importantly, the sessions allowed members to give technology a second chance and become more connected as a result. 

Imtiaz said: “Now we have a [WhatsApp] group where we share things such as what I have cooked for my daughter at the weekend. My mind was blown when I learnt to watch YouTube clips on the huge TV screen at home.

“The greatest thing which happened to me this year was the birth of my first grandson on Christmas Day. I was sending messages and videos to all parts of the world through my mobile phone.

“I was receiving messages even on the names for the baby. Someone had even suggested little Santa! My daughter sends me photos of the baby every few hours, I feel so proud and it has made me realise that I am now connected to more people than I ever was.”

More recently Alchemy Arts launched their COVID-related explainer video initiative as part of their online Salford TEK Eagles programme.

The aim of these videos were to help members of the community learn how to access information about staying safe during the pandemic.

Alchemy Arts partnered with the NHS Salford Clinical Commissioning Group to produce five explainer videos available in 11 different languages, including Urdu, Bengali, Arabic and Punjabi.

James Messenger, Alchemy Arts Social Media Manager, said: “There has never been a more important time for technology as the pandemic separates more families. 

He said: “The last few months have been troubling for everyone with so much uncertainty going around.

“Making the COVID-19 explainer videos was our way of showing that technology should be used as a way of accessing the latest information in the best possible way, and we’ve been delighted by the overwhelmingly positive comments.

 “It’s been truly incredible to see people like Imtiaz enhancing their technological skills and learning that smartphones and computers aren’t something to be feared. 

“We’ve seen people from our sessions become more accustomed to using technology as a form of communication, speaking to other group members remotely, as well as getting in contact with family members across the world. 

“It really shows that the older generation are starting to get a firmer grasp on technology, and the momentum of projects like TEK Eagles is only going to grow as we move forward.”

Written by Ted Peskett

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