‘My goodness, I was just transported back to the past,’ laughs Riny (70). She is just stepping out of VodafoneZiggo's Huiskamer van Toen. ‘Now I'm in 2023 once again.’ In the room, complete with a 1950s floor lamp and rug, she saw high-tech 360-degree projections of the 1988 European Football Championship final, the 1969 moon landing and other historical TV footage. For her, the 1963 Elfstedentocht (a skating marathon in the Dutch province of Friesland) stood out. ‘That was nice to see again. I used to watch that all day back then.’
VodafoneZiggo is taking the Huiskamer van Toen on tour to residential care homes across the country this summer. Older people can relive the best moments from their past. Today, the space is part of the stand shared by VodafoneZiggo with the National Foundation for the Elderly. ‘Welcome Online’ is written on the floor near the entrance: the name of the free learning programme in which the two organisations introduce elderly people to the digital world. Many visitors to the fair see this as an intriguing invitation. There’s a continuous coming and going of curious over-50s.
‘For me, this fair is a great day out,’ continues Riny. ‘Having a good look around.’ Is she active online? ‘Sure, I can manage just fine. That may be because I experienced the introduction of the computer at work. Back then, one computer took over the entire basement of the office building. Over the years, I have continued to develop as computers have progressed. That's the key, I think: that you keep it up. Now, I mainly use the internet to order things, like clothes.’
Meanwhile, behind Riny, four other visitors have plopped down on the couch in the Huiskamer. They are brothers-in-law John and Jac with their wives. The men especially love the footage of the moon landing. ‘Who knows, maybe another mission will go that way soon,’ Jac says. ‘History repeats itself.’ Seventy-somethings can also do just fine digitally. John: ‘Choosing holidays, banking – I do it all online. And almost exclusively on my smartphone.’ Jac nods. ‘The laptop increasingly stands idle.’
Digital line to friends and acquaintances
By no means all older people are comfortable with modern technology. Research from the University of Twente shows that more than half of over-55s in the Netherlands don’t feel sufficiently digitally literate. However, the elderly people visiting the stand of VodafoneZiggo and the National Foundation for the Elderly this morning do know how to use it.
For instance, Ria (83) often calls and apps with her large circle of friends and acquaintances. 'It has helped me that I have always been active with volunteer work. That involves a lot of communication – that's how you get used to it,’ she says, watching footage of the Elfstedentocht in the Huiskamer. ‘Ah, 1963. That’s when I married my first husband.’
Online on three devices simultaneously
Moments later, Albert (74) sits on the sofa. The fair has only been open for an hour, but his bag is already full of information leaflets and promotional materials. ‘I am retired but very interested in new developments. For example, I will soon start a MuziekGeluk course on how to give people with dementia pleasure with their favourite music.’
He gathers information at trade fairs like this one, as well as online. ‘I have a laptop, a tablet and a smartphone. I often use all three at the same time. I can browse on my laptop and play music on my tablet while looking something up with my phone.’ From his bag, Albert fishes out a list of stands and events he wants to visit today, albeit handwritten. The name of his next stop is written in ornate letters. ‘I want to see the Dutch Tenors, do you know them? Fantastic. And they’ll be performing in the Silver Theatre soon, so I'll have to head over there now.’