Saturday, May 16, 2009

TO CROSS OR NOT TO CROSS THE DIGITAL DIVIDE?

"Older adults are the fastest growing demographic on the Internet," said Prof Vicki Hanson at a global World Wide Web conference held in Madrid recently. I'm not too sure if this is the case in Malaysia as reliable statistics are not available. What I do know is that there are still many seniors aged 60+ who do not use the computer, and have no desire to do so, period.


Unless the nature of their work requires the regular use of computers and electronic gadgets, most older seniors don't feel comfortable using digital technology. Much of this has to do with the era they grew up in. Back in the 1950s and 60s, there were no personal computers, cell phones, Playstation, video/digital cameras, microwave ovens, washing machines or GPS. Back then machines were very basic and simple to use.


So it's easy to understand why many older seniors are bewildered and intimidated by the plethora of gadgets on the market today – from blackberrys to iPods and what-have-yous. It's a steep learning curve for them, and young adults should bear this in mind before they lose patience with their parents or grandparents and declare them 'impossible to teach'.


Take my 83-year old mother as an example. She has difficulty figuring out how to use the TV and Astro remote controls. To make it easier for her, I leave the Astro decoder on Channel 311. I keep away the Astro remote control so she won't confuse it with the TV remote control. So all she has to do is press the red ON/OFF button on the TV remote to enjoy her favourite programmes.


But not all older seniors are technophobic. At an internet marketing seminar I attended two years ago, I met Chuan Chooi. In his late 70s then, he was the oldest participant to have set up his own website to generate income. Then there is Tan Sri Dr Ani Arope, 78, who famously took up flying after his retirement. "Flying sharpens my mental faculties," he says. I can well believe that. Just imagine having to learn how to operate all those computers and electronic gadgets in the cockpit! I have trouble just remembering how to set up the DVD player to record selected TV programmes!


Many seniors (myself included) still look at e-payment and online banking with distrust. Forget about online shopping. Nothing comes close to the satisfaction of being able to touch, test or smell an item before deciding to buy it. After all, isn’t that what the shopping experience is all about. Likewise reading the news online can never beat the satisfaction of actually holding the newspaper in our hands as we scan the headlines. Let's not even bring up the Kindle.


As long as there is an option, older seniors will always choose the old familiar ways of doing things. That's how it has always been for them. And no one should force them to do otherwise. This is their message to all techno-evangelists waiting to convert them. LEAVE US ALONE. WE ARE HAPPY TO REMAIN COMPUTER ILLITERATE!

1 comment:

Michael Manago said...

I am a senior (68 yrs old) and a blogger - http://www.agewithcharm.com/. Partly I agree with you. Seniors are loathed with all these techno gizmos around. But by default we need to use them because they are the "in" thing nowadays. We just cannot get by without them. But we need it simpler and easy to use. So if you are stuck with a senior who is dense in understanding complicated instructions, try to make it simple. I never go beyond texting and calling with my smartphone. I don't even use it to surf because I find the laptop easy to use.

Be patient. Nothing in the books says seniors cannot learn new things. They just want their learning easier and faster.