Elderly Empowerment in the Digital Age

by HelpAge India February 21, 2020 5 comments Cause of Serving
digital Lit

“To teach a man how he may learn to grow independently, and for himself, is perhaps the greatest service that one man can do another” – Benjamin Jowett

Rapidly changing inventions and innovative technologies are often tough to keep up with for elders. People can connect and stay in touch with each other all across the world. While using a smartphone, calling on skype and using social media might come easy for the younger generation, it is actually very challenging and new for the elders to get used to modern technology to fully take advantage of it.

Social loneliness and seclusion has a negative impact on the lives of elders, affecting not only their emotional welfare but have severe consequences on their health and physical wellbeing. Older people tend to live alone due to age, mobility, lack of social support groups and finances which makes them all the more lonely. As they age, their health declines further making them lonelier, thus leaving them more susceptible to depression, health declination, and premature death.

The pace of change in technology makes it difficult for most to keep up. More so with the elders who find it almost impossible to keep up with the latest gadgets, mobile applications, new smartphones, tablets, etc. This handicap excludes elders from the mainstream social fabric. To tackle this, HelpAge has started a ‘Digital Literacy’ program introducing elders to the online world by conducting workshops across the country and supporting the seniors and paving the way for elderly empowerment. Partner institutions, organizations, volunteers and interns are encouraged to conduct basic tutorials for elders, using the HelpAge Handbook for senior citizens – Computers and Smart Phones learning made easy. Research indicates that various technology-based interventions have been carried out that are known to reduce the stress and loneliness amongst the elder population.

HelpAge is currently associated with more than 5000 Senior Citizens Associations with more than 10 lakh members across India. Besides elderly empowerment in digital space, seniors are offered counseling for financial planning in later years, made aware of their rights & entitlements and given legal advice on how to write Wills & Legacies.

While most elders are interested to learn the basics of smartphones, laptops and other contemporary devices, they rarely encouraged and supported by the younger members in the family due to busy lifestyles. At HelpAge, we conduct Digital Literacy classes for elderly empowerment, so they need not be dependent on anyone and can connect with their children, grandchildren living abroad or in a different city. At HelpAge, we teach them to use a smartphone, make online transactions whether it be banking or paying utility bills or make online bookings. This event especially helps elders who find it physically difficult to stand in long lines to make bill payments.

65 year old, Anil Kumar Jha, is a member of the Pragatisheel Senior Citizens Association in Muzaffarpur, Bihar. A well-developed district with retired professors, educationists and government employees, yet the elders here struggle to keep up with today’s fast paced technology.

Life for Anil after retirement had taken a complete 360 degree turn. From being a high ranking government official to a retired man, life had changed. He had time to spare, but nothing to do and no one to talk to. He stays with his wife, while his children and grandchildren are in another city and it is difficult to meet them. He misses them dearly as he is unable to talk to them regularly.

Ever since he started attending HelpAge India’s Digital Literacy workshops for elderly empowerment, life for Anil has changed dramatically. He is now able to talk to his grandchildren more frequently using features like WhatsApp and Skype and is more involved in the lives of his children. He can now book his own tickets and pay for his utility bills online and doesn’t depend on anyone anymore.

He is a member of Das Senior Citizen Welfare Association, New Delhi and has been attending Digital Literacy classes organized by HelpAge India since 2016. Being in Air force, he was adept in using a smartphone and had basic knowledge of using internet like sending emails, messengers etc. It was only after attending the digital literacy classes that he became aware on how technology has changed over a period of time and how it can benefit him in his daily life.

He is now very efficient in using his smart phones, and uses the internet for everything from, banking, online transactions to social media and daily news. He uses skype to talk to his children and grandchildren and stays connected with them. He is teaching his wife on how to use a smart phone so that she doesn’t have to depend on him to do it for her.

64 year old Narendra Kumar Sahni is a member of the Senior Citizens Association (SCA) in Mussoorie, Uttarakhand, which was established 10 years ago. The members of the Association are educated and well informed, but face the challenge of keeping up with changing digital technology, especially in retired life.

Sahni worked for an insurance company and retired four years ago, though he still functions as a consultant from time to time. He lives with his wife, children and grandchildren and is quite happy with his life. Although he is well versed in using his smartphone, he still faces the challenge of doing online banking transactions, and prefers the traditional way of going to the bank and doing it in person.

HelpAge realized the dire need for elderly empowerment for Sahni and elders like him, who are unable to keep up with the changing pace of technology. Under its Digital Literacy program, HelpAge conducted a Digital workshop for the SCA Mussoorie members of which Sahni is a member of, teaching them the basics of how to use a Smart Phone, do online transactions, connect with their loved ones, children & grandchildren settled out of state or country, learn how to use popular Apps such as Skype, WhatsApp and Facebook, how to Google Search, browse through YouTube etc.

Today, Sahni has become independent & net savvy, and navigates his way across the web, reading up on the latest news & happenings online and is far more connected with the friends, family and the world outside.