A GREAT grandmother wants to break the stigma of the elderly not being able to use social media, and has created Facebook groups to connect people across the world.

Valerie Wood Gaiger MBE, 79, created her first Facebook account in 2008, thanks to help from her grandson, and now has a personal mission to try and close the digital age gap.

She said that during national lockdowns using the online communities to stay connected is “more important than ever before.”

The great-grandmother of seven, and grandmother to seven more, has said the internet is a great “social leveller” and has so far used social media to connect with people in need around the world. Her project, ‘Learn with Grandma’ has international networks with Facebook groups from Australia to Canada; Ukraine to South Africa.

It was this network that got the attention of the festival organisers. Val will be sharing her story at the Eden Project’s first online festival, the Festival of Discovery, alongside a host of other speakers and headliners Eddie Izzard and Jo Brand.

The Festival of Discovery is aiming to help people connect from across the UK through lively discussions, fun demonstrations and inspiring stories.

She said: “Now more than ever it is important to stay connected with those in need. It has been a tough time for a lot of people, but it is important we all stay in touch as much as we can. Keeping in touch via the internet is not as good as having a hug – but it's better than not seeing family and friends at all!”

Lowri Jenkins from Eden Project Communities said: “We’re thrilled to have Val as part of our schedule of events this Festival weekend. We’ll be covering hot topics like climate change and inclusive communities, alongside sessions on wellbeing and some fun activities for everyone.

“We’d love everyone to join and hear more about Val’s inspiring work – she’ll be speaking on Friday, November 20 at 1.30pm, where else but live on Facebook!”

Val told us: “Young people tell me that Facebook is for older people now, for people in their 40s and 50 and they’ve moved onto WhatsApp and other things.

That’s evolution, my grandmother didn’t want electricity upstairs because of a fear of burning down the house, my mother didn’t want to drive a car because she didn’t trust it, but it’s all evolution.

“I have evolved to use the Internet and I love it, but others don’t want to know, and there’s no reason why they should, there’s no law. But an awful lot of them realise that its a lot quicker easier and cheaper to do a lot of things online, and how wonderful and easy it is to connect with friends on social media.”

For more information about the festival, and to watch all the acts, go to the Festival of Discovery website thefestivalofdiscovery.com/