Connecting young and old

A great help - but does a threat lurk behind the screen?

An earlier article in Rye News talked about the need to bridge the digital divide and how many older people are excluded by the switch to online communications. Covid-19 has re-shaped all our lives, but sometimes new opportunities arise out of difficult times. With the inevitable rise in unemployment, particularly once the furlough scheme ends in October, young and old will need to embrace new ways of working.

Many years ago, in the days when governments invested in adult training (and hopefully they will again to help with looming unemployment), I was running business courses in further and higher education and was frequently asked “what is this thing called the internet – do I need it?”

Despite the challenges, as we now know the internet opened up new business models, making it very easy for people to run online businesses rather than relying on being employed.

E-business start-up programmes were developed for different groups including the over 50s who needed up-skilling, women entrepreneurs who at that time saw new technology as a male zone, and young graduates with media degrees who couldn’t find work.

It surprised me how many people came to the courses because they couldn’t find work or had been made redundant, rather than because they wanted to start their own business. Very few people saw self employment or freelance work as an option but, once they realised the benefits, many went on to be successful and didn’t look back.

We now have another major change as a result of Covid and businesses are again having to adapt to new ways of working. For some, remote working can improve the work-life balance while for others the removal of social networking in the workplace is unwelcome.

New services will be required, for example, HR – advising businesses on Covid-19 and remote working, mobile hairdressers if people are unhappy going inside. Musicians may need to diversify like Music Mike, who my grandchildren love, and who performs outside and sends birthday messages online if parties have had to be cancelled.

Could young and old help each other?

Young people may be tech savvy, but often lack business experience. There is sometimes too much excitement about the power of IT (as we’ve seen with the so called world beating “test and trace” app) rather than concentrating on getting the business model right in the first instance.

Brainstorming a business plan with an older, experienced mentor can be an invaluable way for bouncing around ideas about re-packaging skills into viable start-up as well as working out whether a person is suited for self employment. Rye has many experienced business people in the community who may not be sharing their world on Facebook, posting their images on Instagram, creating videos on TikTok, sending out tweets, or writing a blog, but they do know how the world of business and finance and works.

Young people have much to offer older people who need training on how to shop or sell online or network remotely with their families and friends, or write a blog. Setting up a simple business blog or a website is now easy, thanks to sites such as Wix but the important part, where people often struggle is getting the message right, doing the research and working out how you sell your service.

This is where older people with business experience can be invaluable. Socially distanced training by younger people for older people could be affordable whilst providing a decent hourly rate, and experience, for a young trainer. Both groups have a lot to offer the other.

Perhaps there is something that could be done to help the young and old in Rye connect with each other to help bridge the digital divide and brainstorm new business ideas ? We’d like you to share your views.

Free Courses for Start-ups

If you are interested in starting a new business these sites may be useful:

South East Creatives is offering an intensive online development programme created especially for new start-up businesses, artists, creatives, and freelancers in the music industry. The course starts in September. Apply now.

Let’s Do Business in Hastings offers free two day workshops to support start-ups. They don’t currently have any course dates yet but it’s worth keeping an eye on the site or getting in touch.

Image Credits: Dee Alsey, Shutterstock .


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