Silver surfer logs on to new happiness

                                                                  Charlie Gallacher with his daughter, Liz Sinclair

This is an extract from an article which appeared in the national newspaper The Sunday Post on Sunday 3 December 2017

If you’ve ever been daunted by the prospect of learning a new skill, then let Charlie Gallacher be your inspiration.

SQA’s Liz Sinclair watched in despair as her recently widowed father went from being an irrepressible 74 year-old chatterbox to being withdrawn and silent.

Charlie had lost interest in the things that gave him joy, like doing cryptic crosswords and keeping up his membership of high IQ club Mensa.

Then, just when it seemed the old Charlie had gone forever, he burst back into life: busier, brighter and chattier than ever.

And the reason for retired BP worker Charlie’s transformation? The Internet.

Charlie was coaxed by Liz into sending his first email – about funeral arrangements for Janie, who died after a long illness aged 69.

Since then he has been unstoppable - skyping family living overseas, online shopping on Amazon and eBay, and even experimenting with online dating.

Such are his computer skills that Liz has used Charlie to road test a series of 26 guides she’s written to assist digital beginners to go online.

Charlie, now aged 85, said: “I'd spent my whole life until that point never having any interest in the internet. Like so many others, it was something I knew was happening all around me. But it didn't touch my life until I needed to send an email and realised I knew nothing about the digital world."

He added: "Despite my initial reservations about what the internet had to do with my life, my daughter showed me how to open an email account and send the messages I needed to send. I discovered that it wasn't as hard to master as I'd first imagined. And it was fascinating exploring a world that had, until then, been closed to me."

On the subject of online romance, he laughed: “The dating aspect didn’t go so well. One lady inquired if I had a hairy chest and you couldn’t see me for dust. I was heartened, however, when another relationship faltered because the lady (in her seventies) said she didn’t have the energy to keep up with me.”

Just when Charlie thought the internet would not provide love, he booked online for a bus tour to the north of Scotland and fate sat him next to the lovely Marion Aikman and the couple have been great companions ever since.

On getting Charlie to trial the digital guides, Liz said: “I took the view that if dad could understand it, then everyone would. And he just loves the fact that he’s now an ‘expert’."

Liz adds: "I'd been fretting about what we could do to fill dad's days and give him an interest. Dad was a process operator for BP before he retired then decided that retirement didn’t suit him – so he went back to work as a watchman to keep himself busy. He had been such an engaged, clever man, and I could see him going downhill with mum no longer there. It was really upsetting to see. But showing him how the internet worked honestly was like pulling a switch. Dad was really eager to learn something new. It’s ironic in a way that it’s an email about mum which has inadvertently played such a part in his recovery from her loss. He was at her bedside every day for nearly four years before she died. That’s the kind of man he is. He just adored mum.”

Charlie said: “I didn’t know what to do with myself after Janie died. The internet has now become a major part of my life and it should be, regardless of age, part of everyone’s life. No one, especially older people, should be afraid to have a go. Take my word for it, it changes lives!”

Liz said: “Not only has it given him a focus, it is helping many others through the SQA digital guides he’s helped with. The guides have been used by 4,000 people this year already which is really encouraging. My dad is always honest in his feedback, telling me if I am using language he doesn’t understand or taking too many steps at the one time. I’m enormously proud of not only the guides but his progress. Just the other day I heard him tell someone to ‘just Google it’. There is, of course, yet another added benefit. Dad is a very smart man and now that he’s computer literate, he saved himself a trip to Edinburgh where he had to go and renew his MENSA membership. Now he is able to do it online . . .”

Find out more about SQA's digital guides.