The Withit Café

Written by Jo Carroll.


I shouldn’t be surprised that our councillors don’t read this column.  If they did they might have begun to be a little more careful with the presumptions they make and the language they use.

There is a new scheme in Royal Wootton Basset to help ‘senior citizens’ make full use of the internet.  Free sessions help them set up tablets, send emails, use Skype and download ebooks.  I stumble over patronising assumptions about retired people, but let’s press on.

This initiative, now housed in the library with free WiFi connections, began in the ‘Withit’ café-style club.

I’m assuming this is some sort of pun.  Although spelled ‘Withit’, maybe they are hoping we will read ‘With IT’ – as in ‘With Internet Technology’.  But it is also a term that was flung about in the 1960s meaning fashionable.  Those of us with long hair and flared trousers were ‘with it’ long before anyone had heard of IT.

For this is where I want to put my head under a blanket.  Who says ‘Withit’ any more?  Just because it was around in the 1960s doesn’t mean that those of us with bus passes haven’t moved on through words like ‘cool’ to ‘wicked.’

Ah, but we are old they tell us.  Senior Citizens.  We must have left our adult vocabulary behind when we retired.  So they will use the words from our youth, to make us feel at home.  Besides, it’s a pun.  It’s meant to be funny.

All of which saddens me beyond measure.  For this is not such a silly idea.

I struggle with anyone telling me that I’m getting on a bit and therefore I must be lonely.  Or that I lack confidence to learn new skills.  But I do know that there are many lurking behind closed doors who are unable to make full use of the new technologies and could benefit hugely from lessons such as these.

However, loneliness is not the prerogative of the wrinkly.  Nor is lack of confidence.  Nor is disability and the confinements that can come with it.  Nor is poverty, for buying food and paying rent takes priority over tablets or laptops.  There are many who could benefit from being included in this initiative.

Not only does this project make assumptions about those of us with grey hair (or none), it also disqualifies those younger than us who have been excluded from the technology for countless other reasons.  Surely, there should be space for us all?

So, if anyone is thinking of setting up a similar project in Marlborough, please can you make it accessible to anyone who might be struggling, irrespective of age or health or income. And please don’t give it such a ridiculous name.

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