Saturday, April 20, 2013

NO ESCAPING THE DIGITAL AGE FOR SENIORS

Yesterday's news is today's headlines in the print media
Woke up this morning to find the front page of my subscriber's copy of the local papers flashing STALE news. Unless they have an online edition as well, there is no way print media can keep up with up to the minute reporting of events as they unfold.

Breaking news has been streaming in fast and furious just over the past 24 hours. The best way to keep up with the latest updates on the local front and elsewhere in the world is undoubtedly via internet-ready computers, tablets and smart phones.

Which brings me to my point - the digital age is here to stay. Senior citizens need to learn how to use the internet and social media in order to keep abreast of what's happening in the world around them. Ignorance is not always bliss, not in the age of digital information.

They should stop using the excuse that they are too old to learn anything new. There are senior citizens who have email addresses, but admit they hardly ever check their email. What's the point then of having a computer and an email address? It's like having a car with a registration plate, but the owner seldom drives it.

What is this fear, this reluctance to learn how to use the computer and the Internet? We all know people in our age group who simply refuse to go near a computer, much less sign up for computer classes. I have a friend who actually takes pride in the fact that he belongs to the endangered species of computer illiterates. And he intends to keep it that way.

According to the US-based Pew Research Center’s 2012 survey on Internet usage among older people, 53% of those aged 65 and above use the Internet, up from 13% in 2000 when the first survey was carried out. The number of internet users declines significantly to about a third after age 75.

This is unfortunate as when one ages, this is the time when we become increasingly isolated from the outside world due to physical disabilities, dependence on others for transport and loss of social connections. This is the time when we would benefit the most from being able to go online to make transactions from e-banking and ordering groceries to connecting with friends via social media.

There are no statistics available for internet usage among senior citizens in Malaysia. But one can be sure the percentage of older internet users here is nowhere close to the US figures.

The benefits of being able to use the internet go way beyond getting the latest news. Once seniors learn how to google, they have access to information on practically any subject they have an interest in, from how their shares are performing in the stock market, to how to source for seed money for their new business venture, and everything in between.


Then there are the social benefits of staying connected with family and friends, of making new friends online and of sharing files, photos and videos. The elderly can enjoy online games, check out sales, make purchases and pay for them - all without stepping out of the house.

Wouldn't it be great if a company looking for ideas for its CSR program could sponsor or set up computer classes for senior citizens? There have been previous projects, but most of them are poorly managed with the result that participants slowly lose interest and drop out.

Touch-screen computers are easy for seniors to use

I like what It’s Never 2 Late is doing. This US company has placed touch-screen computer systems in 1,200 nursing homes and assisted-living communities. These computers are simplified to enable ease of usage for the elderly. It removes their inherent fear of the new and the unknown. Learning becomes non-threatening to their dignity.

If anyone out there knows of a local company willing and able to sponsor or offer beginner computer classes for seniors, please contact Seniorsaloud at seniorsaloud@gmail.com.




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