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Mayor-Net: Closing Digital Divide & Fighting Loneliness in times of Covid19

Rosario Pérez | Photos: Fran Montes, ReachExtra and Shutterstock

“There are elderly people who would have been in total social isolation during the lockdown had they not been able to learn how to use social media in a safe way, despite their age and the complexity of computers”, Ángel Corbalán, the president for the ‘Mayor-Net’ association, explained. The association is currently providing courses on using the internet for the elderly.

Mayor Net Campo de Gibraltar Angel Corlaban Computer

Ángel Corbalán is the president of ‘Mayor-Net’, a 9-year-old association that focusses on ending digital illiteracy and closing the technological gap for so-called senior citizens who at a disadvantage in the internet era.

Corbalán’s training courses have already helped some 2,500 senior citizens in Spain, and despite the difficulties caused by the lockdowns, his “Computer Science and New Technologies” classes have recommenced, although, despite his best efforts, can only be taken online.

“In-person classes were set to begin on September 14th, at the Centro de Participación Activa de San José Artesano (the San José Artesano Active Participation Centre) in Algeciras, and we had every safety requirements in place; social distancing and hygiene measures, to cater for the 32 students who registered. However, on the afternoon of Friday 11th, the Junta called me to say I had to cancel face-to-face classes due to a large increase in positive cases in Algeciras, which saw one death, within 48 hours”, Corbalán told ReachExtra.

Mayor Net Campo de Gibraltar Angel Corlaban Computer

A determined Corbalán, who is accustomed to growing in the face of adversity, something he has done many times in these past 9 years, decided that Mayor-Net would move forward with online classes, which saw 320 senior citizens and retirees sign up.

Since opening remote classes on Monday 14th, Mayor-Net teachers have been helping students set up their mobile devices so that they can continue to remain in contact with families, doctors, shops and friends. These are skills that have long been necessary to navigate the world, but which have now become vital in these times of lockdowns and social isolation, as was experienced last spring.

Mayor Net Campo de Gibraltar Angel Corlaban Computer

Corbalán recalled that these lessons are not only important to enable older people to navigate the internet and social media, but also to help them to become “less dependant on others and to combat loneliness and boredom, which is prevalent in certain age groups”.

Help Mayor-Net Help Others

Mayor Net Campo de Gibraltar Angel Corlaban Computer

Corbalán said that, as with every other year, “all classes are free, because Mayor-Net is a non-profit organisation, despite the fact that we have never been able to obtain support from any of the administrations”. It is based on “a chain of mutual assistance in which senior citizens help others in order to avoid the generation gap”.

However, Mayor-Net (which also dedicates resources to combat bullying and cyberbullying in schools), is facing the possibility of having to close as from December 31st due to lack of support. According to its president, companies which had supported his association in previous years have stopped doing so. “We have always appreciated the support that we have received in previous years, but unfortunately I have to say that we have not received a single euro this year from companies; we aren’t sure if it’s due to the Covid-19 crisis, although they must have their reasons.”

Angel Corlaban Mayor-Net
Ángel Corbalán, president of Mayor-Net

As Ángel Corbalán puts it, if Mayor-Net is still standing next year, it will be thanks to donations from older people living in the Campo de Gibraltar, including he himself. As he said: “I have never walked away from an unfinished project and I have always believed in what we do … It has been 9 years of real volunteering, not a ‘chiringuito’, and the work which we have done at Mayor-Net, which has been proven to be vital during the pandemic, is currently well recognised and respected inside and outside Andalucia.”

“Ageing is not like a pandemic,” concludes Corbalán, who still trusts that the effort made by these elderly volunteers, who are able to “take a few hours, even though we may not have many left, and a contribution of a few euros is always valued and assists in breaking down the invisible walls that isolate us.”

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