Barclays Digital Eagles: keeping older people connected through coronavirus
As Barclays launches new online resources for people to improve their digital skills during the Covid-19 pandemic, we talk to ‘Silver Eagle’ Pauline Wiltshire – a retired Barclays colleague dedicated to teaching others to use technology – about the importance of helping an older generation to stay connected.
At 72, Pauline Wiltshire is among many older people in the UK who are self-isolating during the coronavirus pandemic.
The retired Barclays colleague, who is part of a national network of ‘Silver Digital Eagles’ who volunteer to upskill people in their local communities to use new technology, says it’s a worrying time for those in her age group.
“I was talking to my friend, Rosemary. She’s 91,” says Pauline. “She said to me, ‘I’m so frightened’ and I said, ‘So am I’. My social diary has evaporated for now, and I’m coming to terms with this new way of life. Like everyone I very much miss human contact.”
In the face of these challenges, Pauline – who was awarded a British Empire Medal by the Queen in 2016 for services for digital inclusion – says that Barclays volunteers are needed more than ever.
Although you can’t give somebody a hug, you can be communicating frequently with them to make sure they know that someone cares. We all need to feel connected
Barclays Digital Eagle
You are known as a Barclays ‘Silver Eagle’. What does that mean?
Barclays’ Digital Eagles are colleagues who work in the bank and give up their time to help people with new technology. I’m a retired Barclays colleague – I joined in 1966 and was involved in many different roles all over the country. So now I’m known as a ‘Silver Eagle’ – silver because I’m old and grey and I love technology. I’m like a sponge, I want to learn more and more. I try to use my enthusiasm to help others.
“There is no job description for a ‘Silver Eagle’ – it’s about using my initiative and expertise where I can, and that’s especially important during this pandemic. We’re all talking to colleagues and working together to find ways to help people who are practicing social distancing or are in self-isolation.
How did you first get involved with the Digital Eagles?
When I retired, I became the Welfare Officer for the local Barclays Pensioners’ Club and it snowballed from there. I arranged talks on digital technology and even arranged for a series of training sessions for them at a local technology store. At a meeting at head office, I said to Barclays, ‘I want to help but I can’t do it on my own. These people [Pauline’s fellow pensioners] need digital training.’
A couple of months later they asked me to bring some pensioners to Barclays in Reading with their mobile devices so that they could be helped to learn new skills. In 2014, that became what we call a ‘Tea and Teach’ session – where older people come and have a cuppa and learn about technology.
I do feel that out of this trauma, old friendships will emerge and maybe family feuds will be resolved. It’s helping us to realise what is important in life
Barclays Digital Eagle
Why is it so important to help older people to use technology?
It’s hard for people to admit that they need help when the grandchildren can do so much and they can’t. Lots of older people are frightened of pressing the wrong button – they think, ‘What if it blows up?’ But it’s important in lots of different ways – to keep people in touch, now more so than ever, and to prevent them from falling victim to fraud.
Right now, there are a lot of older people who would normally use their branch and can’t, so it’s really important for us to give them the support they need to be confident with banking online so they can keep on top of their finances and download whatever they need. Keeping in touch online is particularly vital at this time. Although you can’t give somebody a hug, you can be communicating frequently with them to make sure they know that someone cares. We all need to feel connected.
How is the Digital Eagles programme evolving during the coronavirus crisis?
I had organised Tea and Teach sessions in Windsor and Newbury, but sadly they had to be cancelled for safety reasons. But the team has worked really hard to make sure that training is still available even when people can’t physically get to their usual sessions.
We’ve moved Tea and Teach sessions online and have added new content to the Digital Wings online learning platform, which is aimed at building digital confidence. We’ve also been sharing ‘how to’ videos on YouTube about subjects like how to use online banking and how to save money online. So we’re doing our best to make sure there’s still plenty of support available for everyone.
What have you been doing to help people at this difficult time?
My idea is to try to give people hope that all is not lost. One thing I’ve been doing is sharing jokes, things to do, where to get food from, the new pop up takeaway places, information and advice on keeping safe on social media. There is plenty of information out there to help everyone if they know where to find it.
I do feel that out of this trauma, old friendships will emerge and maybe family feuds will be resolved. It’s helping us to realise what is important in life. I recently received a lovely email from a nurse who had been able to order a box of fresh vegetables through a link I sent her. Those little things mean a lot in this climate. We can all do our bit if we pull together.