Friday, June 19, 2009


Connecting online (Photo: NYT)

In a previous post, I wrote that many seniors I have met have little interest in learning to use the computer and the Internet. A common response from them is: “Already retired. No point in learning to use the computer and the Internet.”

While I respect their wish to stay out of the cyberworld, I can’t help wondering if they are aware of the benefits they are missing out on.

1. For retirees, especially those who have lost a spouse or close friends, loneliness and boredom often set in. If nothing is done about it, the result is depression, or worse, dementia. The mushrooming of online social networking sites for the 50+ reflects the need for this age group to make new friends and find a purpose in their golden years.

2. Seniors can keep in touch with their adult children and grandchildren through email, skpe and social networks like Facebook and MySpace. In addition, they can easily view videos or family photos that are posted on these networking sites or on Youtube.

3. They can download or listen to their favourite music, read the latest news, check out share markets, find out more about things that interest them, learn a new skill or play games - all virtually on the Internet.

5. Medical and health information is also easily accessible online.

6. They can start an online business and receive passive income without even leaving the house.

These are just a few of the many benefits of getting online. Many social networking sites have expanded their services to include classifieds, match-making, and legal advice, while Verdurez, a new networking site for older Indians, have included forums, travel, wellness and money.

Age should never be a barrier or an excuse for computer illiteracy. Our former PM Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad started blogging last May at the age of 83. To date, his bi-lingual blog, Che Det, has received more than 20 million hits! Many of our Ministers, including our current PM Dato' Sri Najib Razak, now have an online presence either on their own website or blog, or on Facebook or Twitter.

There will come a time when older seniors are housebound. That is the time when the Internet may become their only point of contact and communication with the outside world. But why wait till then? For those of us ‘younger’ seniors, the time is now to discover how the Internet can enrich our lives. We should encourage other retirees to learn how to go online. Learning a new skill keeps the mind active and healthy. It adds years to our lives, and adds life to our years as well. Isn’t that reason enough?

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