RESEARCH has shown that many seniors are still reluctant to go digital and lag behind the rest of the population in embracing technology for their daily lives.
While seniors realise that the Internet can be of great value to them and they would like to use it, they are intimidated and fearful of having to learn how to use the tools.
It can be daunting and overwhelming for someone who has never used a tablet PC or smartphone to learn how to use it.
Let me relate the experience of my 70-year-old sister, Ajaib Kaur, from Tampin. She only started to learn computer skills when she was 65. Against all odds, she overcame the barriers and now surfs the Internet and sends email like everyone else. She is also comfortable using the various apps on her smartphone and tablet PC.
Let me relate how this determined lady managed to overcome the odds to become computer and smartphone literate. Five years ago, pressured by her siblings and children, she took up the challenge to use the Internet within six months.
After purchasing a basic computer and subscribing to a WiFi service, she engaged someone to teach her the basics of computing. But first she had to learn how to type. This was not easy for someone her age.
Then she had to learn how to connect to the Internet, send and receive email and how to search and watch videos.
She admits that the going was very tough initially, and there were many times she wanted to give up.
What kept her going was her determination to prove that age is not a limiting factor for seniors like her to enjoy a whole new world of information, knowledge and communication.
She soon realised that it was a question of “practise makes perfect”; the more she worked on the computer, the more competent and confident she became over time.
Within two months, she did not need a teacher anymore, although she did need to ask for help now and then.
When I asked her what motivated her to push on, she simply said: “If there’s a will, there’s a way”.
Now, this proud grandmother of five sends and receives email messages with ease and her favourite is the WhatsApp chat tool.
On the other hand, my retired diplomat friend, who is able to send and receive email messages, still does not own a smartphone. Several times, I have suggested that he get a smartphone so that I can easily send him messages through WhatsApp but he says that he does not want to own a smartphone as it will make his life more complicated.
Even my 66-year-old medical doctor friend who operates a clinic in Damansara Utama is content with an old-fashioned phone which has the basic call and message functions.
One of the challenges when learning new technology is having a youngster for your teacher – usually the senior’s children or grandchildren.
This can be a difficult, or even distressing, experience as seniors are often hesitant to ask too many questions for fear of being a nuisance or looking ridiculous. It is worse if the youngsters’ responses are sarcastic or patronising. The youngsters’ lack of patience for slow learners (which seniors normally are) is another deterrent.
Seniors have their pride and don’t like looking “stupid”.
Physical constraints and health can also be barriers to learning and using technology.
Importantly, seniors should realise the benefits of using these gadgets and be comfortable using them.
Many feel inadequate or just don’t have the confidence to master new technologies. The first thing they have to overcome is the barrier in their mind.
Seniors should not start out with negative thoughts and fears.
It is probably comforting for seniors to know that leading computer and smartphone manufacturers have made their gadgets easier to use, not just for seniors but the general public as well.
So, we now have friendly touch-screen computers and laptops, and the font size on websites and apps can even be enlarged these days. If you do get stuck, just call or chat with the customer service of the computer or phone manufacturer, which is available 24 hours now.
Google Malaysia is now also offering courses to seniors. Participants learn how to use several Google-related apps such as Google Calendar, Google Maps and YouTube.
As a 66-year old, this is what I have to say to seniors who have yet to embrace technology is: “You don’t know what you are missing out on. A brand new world awaits you. You will love every minute of it. Wouldn’t it be wonderful to stay in touch with your loved ones, especially your family and friends, even in distant places from the comfort of your home?”
Through the Internet, your loved ones are just a call or a chat away. You can search online for information about your health, religion, sports or news. Through YouTube, you can watch your favourite singers of the past sing the hit tunes from when you were growing up as well as watch all the blockbusters of the past.
The best part is that it will not cost you anything extra. All you have to pay for is the Wifi service.
It’s never too late to learn.
Photo: Ajaib Kaur surrounded by family members.