Society

Senior citizens and smartphones

Classes at the old age home   | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

A big group of senior citizens are gingerly typing out on their mobile phones. It’s a sunny Friday morning at Nimmadhi Old Age Home, but the room is dark — only interrupted by the lighting up of smartphone screens and the light from the PowerPoint presentation.

Even as R. Muthukrishnan is trying to put forth his point, he’s interrupted by an enthusiastic ‘senior’ student in the first row. “Can we book a discotheque using this,” is the question. Everyone laughs.

Being at it

The lesson they’re learning that day is how to use Paytm. The previous day they’d practised — and practised again — before finally cracking the mystery of how to change a display picture on WhatsApp. “It gave me immense happiness,” says Padma Balasubramaniam, showing off her phone.

Balasubramaniam is among the more enthusiastic students in the class, which aims to impart smartphone usage tips to senior citizens. For someone who’s pretty much home most of the time, the programme is not just fun because she gets to meet different people but also one that helps her learn.

“My grandson is in Class XII and has given me his smartphone. I’m exploring its basic features and learning things like how to book a cab,” she beams.

Even as she goes through the applications in her phone, she’s also flipping the pages through her course material — a thick collection of printouts that highlights the purpose of a smartphone, its features, mobile networks, screenshots and using the Play Store. It’s the result of a lot of hardwork put in by HelpAge India, which devised this course specifically keeping in mind the pressures that senior citizens go through in these times of technological progress.

Smarter than ever
  • Do you know that the present mobile phones have more computing power than the computers used for the Apollo 11 to land on the moon?

The biggest challenge, says instructor Muthukrishnan of HelpAge, is that senior citizens find it hard — at times, a little embarrassing — to keep asking their children for guidance on technology.

“The biggest challenge isn’t that they have no one to teach them; their sons and daughters do tell them how to explore the phone. But sometimes, these youngsters lack the patience to keep on harping on it. Senior citizens do not want to depend on children; they’d like to do whatever they can on their phone, like booking a cab or purchasing something,” says Muthukrishnan, who has been teaching the nuances of using cellphones to senior students for the past couple of years.

“But even simple things like taking a photo and sharing it through WhatsApp gives them immense joy.”

Muthukrishnan has his task cut out for, “senior citizens have umpteen number of questions”. “They ask me things like why they should use WhatsApp to send a message when they can SMS. They want to know if sending a photo to one person means that it’s for the whole world to see. Teaching them requires a lot of patience,” he admits.

Sixty three-year-old Madhan Mohan from RA Puram walked into this four-day course with a button cell phone and is now eagerly looking forward to buying a smartphone.

“If my children buy the latest one in the market, I’ll anyway get their current smartphone,” he chuckles, “It will be useful for shopping and other things. It’s time we learnt how to do things on the phone.”

For NV Ravi from Mylapore, who owns an iPhone 6, which he describes as “a technology I can’t exploit fully to my requirement”, the course was an eye-opener. “The most important lessons I learnt is about banking on the mobile phone and how to keep it secure,” he explains, “Learning how to use public utilities on the smartphone — like paying electricity bills — is also imperative. As we age, getting such services at the click of a button is very useful.”

The next four-day smartphone course for senior citizens will commence on April 17 at Nimmadhi Old Age Home, 2/20, Raja Street Extension, RA Puram.

For details, call 9600135915 or 18001801253.


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Printable version | Oct 11, 2021 2:35:20 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/society/senior-citizens-and-smartphones/article23334871.ece

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