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When ‘oldies’ cross the techno-threshold

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OWN CORRESPONDENT

Given the tremendous surges of technology today, the SAJR investigated how the elderly of our community are embracing technology.

Said Bev Pokroy, senior social worker at Our Parents Home in Orchards, who has worked with the elderly for the past 15 years: “A handful of residents have their own computers, and while they all enjoy playing games on them, a couple do Internet banking, which is remarkably brave. Just two of our residents use the resident lounge e-mail facility.

“One resident – in fact one of our dementia unit occupants – uses the Skype facilities at OPH.” She adds that another resident who recently passed away, watched her grandchildren’s wedding on skype. “Remember that some are suffering failing eyesight and hearing, even before technophobia can be addressed.

“There are those who don’t embrace technology at all. They will wait for the phone-calls from their overseas family. They prefer to wait to hear the voice rather than use e-mail.”

Tech guru Arthur Goldstuck, added: “I correspond with a couple of older people, who use technology; once a year I give a talk at Our Parents Home, where I explain technology like the Smart Phone, but also, where I emphasise that it is not essential to have top-of-the-range equipment.”

Sensitive to the realities of the generational divide, Goldstuck knows several older people who are Skype-literate. “It is normally their children who set them up with Skype. Once they start using it, it becomes almost like just another version of the phone, for example. Skype is one of the great gateways to the world of the Internet for many elderly people.

“E-mail is the basic: Most older people, once they have been shown the ropes with the equipment they will be using, get to grips with e-mail quite easily and it operates along systems they have used for years.

“It is when you get to things like social media and chat, that there is a high level of technophobia, and also where there’s a great deal of resistance to changing the way they have always done things.

“Rather than changing systems, e-mail is just done on a different type of machine. And you need to know how to use that machine.

“Skype offers so much tangible benefit in being able to communicate with children and grandchildren, that that is enough to help overcome any resistance.”

He has encountered older people buying a computer for the first time in their lives when they retire from a lifetime of work. “What typically happens is that a computer is bought to Skype children overseas and then other benefits are realised, once it has become a part of the furniture.”

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