‘Smartphone surfers’ group sees retirees master modern tech together

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They say you can’t teach an old dog new tricks — but a group of smartphone-wielding retirees in Scotland are putting paid to that proverb by teaching each other how to get the most out of their devicesarchaeology,

The origins of the Smartphone Surfers came from an embarrassing little technological accident that will likely be familiar to many a person.

Penicuik and District U3A Chair and Smartphone Surfers leader Hugh Munro explains: “At a U3A meeting several months ago and during a speaker’s talk, a mobile phone rang out.

“With the persistent ringing tone, one very embarrassed member eventually found the phone, scurried out of the meeting hall and sheepishly returned later.

“I later ascertained that the member in question had recently acquired a new smartphone and didn’t know how to either mute or switch off the phone.

“Not long after that I experienced a lightbulb moment — and thought that there might just be a need for a smartphone interest group. It didn’t take long to gather enough people.”

The group meets regularly in each other’s homes, with attendees putting forward the skills that they would like to learn on their smartphones, tablets and other devices.

Topics that the group have covered so far include how to set up WhatsApp groups, access WiFi, find and download local bus timetables, cast to a TV, and use online banking.

According to Mr Munro, the most recent meeting has examined how to make handsfree calls using voice assistants and smart speakers like Amazon’s Alexa and Echo.

One of the group’s members, Susan, told Express.co.uk: “The Smartphone Surfers group has given me the confidence to play around more with my phone.

“I find I am using it a lot more, to access information faster than reaching for my laptop. I have a lot more to learn, but I am enjoying doing that!”

Eileen, another intrepid Smartphone Surfer, added: “It seems that formats and jargon change so quickly that it’s difficult to keep up.

“I feel this interest group is, bit by bit, bringing back my previous skills, confidence and understanding.”

Morag, meanwhile, quipped: “Now I know where to find the torch on my iPhone!”

Mr Munro says that he typically plays the role of the teacher — but the group has helped him learn a lot of new technological tricks as well.

He said: “Initially, my role involved moving around the table, dealing with one issue at a time.

“However, that all changed when I found that I could connect a smartphone to a HDTV. This allowed the whole group to see on the TV screen what was happening on a smartphone screen. Bliss!”

As the members have become more smartphone-savvy, the members are now increasingly teaching themselves, too — learning new skills by searching online and watching tutorials on YouTube.

Mr Munro added: “On top of all the progression on the technical front, the social contact is great and appreciated by all.”

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More smartphone surfer groups are expected to crop up across the country.

U3A chief executive Sam Mauger said: “‘Smartphone Surfers is an excellent example of our members’ can-do attitude.

“At U3A, if members are interested in a subject area that doesn’t already exist, they are supported to set up their own interest group.

“We hope that other U3As will soon be setting up similar groups across the country to build on the success of the Penicuik u3a.”

This, he concluded, will help members “and really make smartphone technology work for them, to make their lives easier.”

More information on the u3a can be found on their website.

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