“If anyone needs to get out and do things, do it on a computer. It’s a fantastic freedom.”

Michael, digital skills learner, Brighton & Hove

Michael is retired and lives with his four dogs. He enjoys model making.

He used to use computers at work, but when he retired he no longer had access to a computer. About 2 years ago he began using the internet via a smartphone, but found this very challenging due to the size of the screen and his eyesight.

When the pandemic hit, a neighbour started to do some shopping for Michael. He wanted to do more for himself online but couldn’t afford a device.

“Being retired and disabled… money was a bit tight, so buying a computer wasn’t possible.”

Becoming more independent

As Michael was clinically vulnerable and shielding, he received a letter from Brighton & Hove City Council, listing available support. Michael would not have known where to go for digital support until he received the letter.

Michael called the Digital Brighton & Hove Support Line. He now has a laptop through the Digital Brighton & Hove and TechTakeBack refurbishment scheme. He also receives occasional support from a Digital Champion.

Michael is now doing his food shopping for himself, which has helped him to be more independent. He also does some online shopping on behalf of his neighbours, and uses technology to access health and medication information on the NHS website and to monitor his heart rate.

Learning, and helping others

Being online has helped Michael to pursue his interests. He’s been looking up wildlife, natural history, photographs from a space station, playing a snooker game, and finding details for his model making:

“It’s been very helpful getting online to do my shopping and has also helped with the model making… I’m building a kit, I can get a reference from actual World War Two history sites and things like that.”

Bristol Superfreighter MK32 Airfix model kit in its cardboard box

He is also sharing his skills with others online by setting up his own website helping other people to make models:

“I used to take kits [to care homes]… [But being online]’s the only way to do it nowadays… To help people who need help with modelling, to keep them healthy, to help them get into modelling and how to do things. It’s a way of giving back what I’ve learnt.”

Michael told us that being online has had a positive impact on his life in terms of confidence and social connection. Even though unable to go outside, he has found a freedom in being online:

“Thanks to you and your colleagues… If anyone needs to get out and do things, do it on a computer. It’s a fantastic freedom… it’s helped with life, you know it keeps your life going instead of just sitting stagnating while this virus ruins the world. You can… see the world as it was or as it could be…”

Michael also hopes that sharing his experience of being online will inspire other people to get online:

“I hope so, there’s no need to sit indoors by yourself… While you can’t see [other people] or touch them, you can talk to them, you can learn from them, you know. You learn from life, or their life. It’s a life sharing experience… There’s no need to be alone. If you’ve got a computer, or a tablet, get out there, share your life.

Michael was part of the Digital Brighton & Hove tablet loan scheme before he was allocated a permanent laptop through TechTakeBack. He continues to receive occasional support from a Digital Champion.