“The computer has always been a dreaded black box for me, but now I realise it is the only way to stay in touch with my grand children who stay abroad,” says B. Suseela (71). She is one of the many senior citizens for whom technology remains mysterious, a situation that is slowly changing as many individuals are teaching technology at a pace and time suited to the elderly.
Many senior citizens feel that most computer training centres lack infrastructure that is suited to them. The absence of ergonomic keyboards, antiglare screens, and lack of appropriate accessibility to functional micro phones and web cameras are some constraints. The personal tutors, however, give them the sense of approachability and the time they need to get comfortable with the machine.
“The timings of the classes, and the ‘certificate courses' don't suit my requirements, “ says R. Parthasarathy, a retired railway officer, adding that most tutors at the centres follow a methodical approach to computers and many are impatient while addressing his questions.
Fighting their resistance to learn something new is the biggest challenge, says Anu Ramanan, a management consultant, who took to teaching computers to senior citizens at their homes.
“The requirements are different as some want to learn to browse, chat and play card games, while others want to explore options such as online teaching and blogging,” she says.
Ravi Chandrasekaran quit his job as the director of a leading company, to satisfy his penchant for teaching. With a 20-year experience in the IT industry, he now conducts computer classes for senior citizens at his house in Mylapore.
“A lot of psychological insights went into designing this course,” he says.
They would want to know everything, from the “bubble burst” to incorporating the rupee symbol, all this requires a lot of patience.
Citing analogies from real life, and encouraging them to ask questions makes it easier for the elderly to relate to technology, he adds.
Chord keyboards are harder to learn but are useful to persons with severe arthritis as they free up one hand. K. Balajee (66) is slowly gaining expertise over it, thanks to Nirmala Shantaram, who imparts computer training to the elderly at their homes.
Many people staying abroad get their parents in India sophisticated technological gadgets that are medically suited for them but require a lot of practice and patient teaching.
“It's a challenge, but the expression of triumph on their faces when their operations display results on the screen, is hugely rewarding and nothing can equal that," she adds.