Thursday, 16 April 2009


The elderly are a significant part of out society. Statistics show that people are living longer and the population of the elderly is rising.
However , the elderly are mainly retired and house-bound. Since they are not as visible as other segments of the society, they tend to be overlooked in the general scheme things.
Being house-bound is the cause of loneliness and boredom for the elderly.
Life could be much easier and more meaningful if more people are involved in ensuring that the elderly maintain human contact with the society.
Access to computers and computer literacy are effective ways of being actively involved in the world around us.

Some would wonder why the elderly should bother themselves with complicated computers, softwares and digital equipment. Is this not way-out of their league and their attention span? Can they cope?
Someone had fits of laughter when I told him I was teaching my 73 year-old friend how to use the computer.
There is this general misconception that all old people have gone "soft in the head" and have "child-like minds".
This impression is as untrue as it is unfair.
People who have cared enough to befriend or interact with the elderly , have been pleasantly surprised. They have discovered that many pensioners are intelligent and quite articulate. Some are eager to learn how to use all the latest electronic gadgets. Even the ones who have become frail due to age and ailments , are still witty and can hold their own ground when discussing most topics.
All they need is someone who would care enough to find time to talk to them. Help them understand all these changes going on around them !
I take exceptions to the widely held disrespectful views that the elderly are "past it", are no longer useful and as such should be seen and not heard.
Often , I hear people make rude comments like "dinosaurs", "relics", "slow" etc; when referring to the aged.
Time,for most people,is scarcely enough .They are too busy to talk to elderly people!This dismissive attitude towards the elderly underlines the need for them to begin to enjoy the independence which computer literacy gives.
For a better quality of life, the elderly need computers, computer software and computer training.
This would enable them do basic things like sending and receiving Email, writing and printing letters, printing photographs, doing their shopping online and checking their card and bank acconts and balances and making online payments.
They could overcome loneliness by spending their time surfing the Internet.

For the elderly who are willing to"learn new tricks"and move ahead with the rest of humanity, there is indeed a new lease of life.
However, many old people are unwilling to be involved with digital telecommunications and information technology.
Gadgets like computers, mobile phones and digital equipment are viewed with suspicion and fear by most of our elderly folks.
One 73 year-old woman told me that her 78 year-old husband discouraged her by warning her that only criminals- fraudsters and whores use the Internet!

Apart from access to computers , the elderly also need human contact which computers cannot give them. No human being should be isolated.
We all know at least one lonely pensioner in our neighbourhood or else where.
I believe in befriending such people. More people should do that.
Occasionally , stop and talk to them. At Christmas,Valentine Day , Mothers/Fathers day,Easter or on their birthday , surprise them ,go to their doors with a bouquet of flower or a box of chocolates, a cake and a smile and kind words!
Everyone will grow old and frail. In fact we all age every day.
What comes round, goes round .

Agreed, some of our senior citizens could have unpleasant attitudes.
Some of them refuse to wear hearing aids and they do forget appointments,dates time and cannot remember faces and even names.
Most people find these tendencies in the elderly very irritating .
The elderly should not be blamed for these faults which are off-shoots of the ageing process.
Years ago, I had an elderly neighbour, Flo,who has now " fallen asleep".
Sometimes, she would refuse to open her door to people who came to her door to keep appointments with her or to deliver mail or other stuff.
People like community nurses, social workers, her friends , her children, grandchildren,neighbours, cleaners, delivery men and post men!
She didn't always hear her doorbell and when she did ; she would take ages to come to the door. Sometimes , she refused to open her door.
The exchanges with her were like :
Door: Ring ,ring.....
Flo: "Who is there? Do I know you? No! Go away!"
Visitor : "It's me .Your son / daughter, or from ----- department or store ".
Flo: "No go away! You cannot come in here . I am calling the police now".
That is putting it mildly. Usually her loud threats would be laced with swear words ,racial name-calling and insults!
She did call the police, a number of times; to arrest even her family and friends.
Some of her visitors,who understood what she was ON about; would stand at the door,trying to calm her down until she agreed to open the door.
When she did, she would be all smiles , hugging people and offering to go and put the kettle on; as if nothing had happened!
Her visitors who she denied entry; left, angry and disgusted; vowing never to return!
Later , Flo would be on the phone to their offices, complaining that she had been waiting for hours and nobody turned for the appointment!

There are many elderly people like Flo, with disabilities ; but these are exceptions.
A high percentage of the elderly ,even those in their eighties , are agile , healthy, and sharp-witted. They are a mine of experience and useful tips.
In certain aspects of life , some of them "have seen it all".
Even Flo , blessed me with lots of her fantastic recipes and very useful books .

It is heartwarming to know that there are persons and groups out there who are making it their business to assist the elderly to live life to the full and be actively involved in events in their communities. Many thanks to them.
There are lot of good inventions in the market nowadays which make life more pleasant for the elderly .
Some computer companies have invented larger LCD screens for more clarity and larger prints for the elderly. These are commendable inventions.
Computers which are easy to plug in , install and easy to use without frequent "help calls" to technicians would be ideal for the aged.
Because of their thoughtful inventions for the elderly, when the present-day inventors grow old and frail; in their twilight years, much improved, latest editions of their inventions will give them a befitting retirement.
May they reap the fruits of their good deeds.
May the Creator of human intellect impact and increase his insight into the minds of all inventors of good things. Amen

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