Page last updated at 08:08 GMT, Wednesday, 11 November 2009

New PC to encourage older users

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Eighty year old Betty Parsons uses a computer for the first time

A new computer aimed at people aged over 60 who are unfamiliar with PCs and the internet has been unveiled.

The simplified desktop - called SimplicITy - has just six buttons directing users to basic tasks such as e-mail and chat.

The computer comes pre-loaded with 17 video tutorials from television presenter Valerie Singleton

More than 6 million people over the age of 65 have never used the internet, according to government figures.

'Social benefit'

Each made-to-order computer takes two weeks from request to delivery and can be ordered by post.

The computer has been developed in partnership with Wessex Computers and a website aimed at older people called discount-age, set up by Ms Singleton.

She said she was shocked by the number of older people who do not have computers - a survey by the Office for National Statistics in August 2009 revealed that 6.4 million people over 65 have never used the internet.

there are some people who will undoubtedly feel patronised by the very idea of a computer for the elderly
Rory Cellan-Jones
Technology correspondent

"I think people just don't understand them," she told BBC News. "I've been using a computer for quite some time and I don't understand everything.

"Every time I learn a new thing to do on my computer I have to write it down so that I can remember it."

The SimplicITy computer has no log-in screen when started up, and contains no drop-down menus.

It opens straight to a front page called "square one" containing separate clickable buttons for e-mail, browsing the web, files (for storing word documents and photos etc), online chat and a user profile.

The e-mail system is a modified version of an Italian design called Eldy.

All SimplicITy users with an eldy.org address will be able to chat to each other via the "chat" button.

The computer is built using Linux operating system, a free operating system that can be customised by users.

If people decide they no longer need the SimplicITy desktop, they can replace it with a standard Linux desktop.

Andrew Harrop, head of public policy for charity Age Concern and Help the Aged said efforts to get older people online should be "applauded".

"Pensioners who aren't online are missing out on hundreds of pounds in potential savings by shopping around and can also often miss out on the best interest rates for savings accounts, not to mention the social benefits of being online," he said.



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