An eighty-five year old former postal worker from Cheltenham is discovering new passions and embracing technology, after learning to use a computer and the internet for the first time.
Jim Bell spent more than 35 years working for the post office, retiring in 1996, and never once touched a computer. He says: “Towards the end of my career, computers were certainly part of business but as a postman, they weren’t something I had anything to do with. I imagine it’s a very changed profession today!”
This meant that when his trade union offered him the chance to get support gaining digital skills he was pretty sceptical - “I was involved in my trade union for almost all of my career but it never occurred to me that they’d have this to offer, and almost twenty years after I retired. I said that as well. I said, you won’t be able to teach a thickhead like me!”
However, his trade union learning representative Katy Hartland, thought differently. Jim explains: “Katy told me straight away, ‘if I don’t think I can teach you, I won’t waste your time’, but she was adamant that she could help me, and she never gave up.”
In fact, it took Jim only a few weeks to realise the potential difference getting online could make to his life. He continues: “I wasn’t sure at first but it didn’t take long for Katy to convince me it was something I was going to get on with! After just a couple of months, I was getting the internet at home and picking out my first laptop. ”
Once Jim started to learn how to use his computer and how to make the most of it, he never looked back - and it soon started to open up new opportunities.
Jim says: “Online banking has been one of the top things for me. Paying bills, transferring money, all from my computer - I never dreamed I’d be able to do anything like that.
“I had a bad fall recently, too, and broke my foot, so getting around is more difficult than it was even a few months ago. Knowing I can stay in control of things from my own home is superb.”
One of the great revelations for Jim has been how the internet puts him in control of his entertainment. He tells us: “YouTube is one of the great discoveries. Not only can I just search for the music I know I’m interested in, it also helps me find new singers that I’d never heard of before.
“I’ve discovered some lovely singers - people I’d never know about, or be able to listen to, if it wasn’t for the internet. So when there’s nothing on the TV, I can just turn on my computer and put on the music that I love. It really does bring me a tremendous amount of joy.”
Jim now recommends engaging with technology to everybody, especially those of his generation. Jim says: “What lots of people my age don’t realise is that there’s no stopping progress. We can do things today that we thought were impossible even twenty years ago. You’d never have dreamed you could send a letter or a photo to Australia in the blink of an eye, without spending a penny.”
For Jim, having the support of Katy has made all the difference - “She’s always gone over and above to help me and she’s become a dear friend. I’m so grateful to her for the dedication and commitment she’s given to my efforts. She’s made a big difference to my life.
“I told her at the beginning that you can’t teach an old dog new tricks but with Katy’s help, I’m very proud to have proved myself wrong!”