June 15 , 1999

Teaching 'em new tricks

by ANITA MATTHEWS

 

OLD folks do not need that much persuasion to get online once they overcome the fear of technology, or say a group of young people In.Tech spoke to.

Many of them believe that the Internet offers senior citizens an avenue to explore new places and a chance to communicate with members of their family who live elsewhere.

But they also think that older folks must change their perception of the Internet as being limited to teenagers and yuppies. Instead, they should view it as another way of obtaining more information, or as a substitute to newspapers, magazines or even the telephone.

``What is important is they look at the computer in the same way they would at a car -- it would take them around so they can do their thing,'' says Anne Hendricks, a purchasing officer at a printing firm.

She adds that the PC will stop looking like an alien device once older people become comfortable with it.

``They must be willing to learn, but there must be someone just as willing and patient to teach them too,'' Anne reasons.

Melisa Chan agrees that young adults are important in helping older folk gain online access. ``We youngsters should encourage them to join in when we surf, and show them the benefits of the Net,'' says the business development manager.

She thinks that older folk shy away from learning because they are afraid of the technology. They see it as something for the younger generation and they just refuse to get involved, she adds.

``Malaysians need to break that barrier and see that the Net is open to all, whether you're two-years-old or 90,'' she says.

Yvonne Tan, a management trainee at a bank, also reiterates that young adults should take the pains to show their older kinfolk how user-friendly the PC can be.

``After all, it's just a matter of pointing and clicking,'' she says.

Their own fun Young adults often see older folks watching their days go by, just waiting for the next wedding, birthday or funeral. Yvonne says that when she was studying overseas, she'd see many old folks hanging around in malls and the casino because they had nothing else to do.

Meanwhile, Melisa says she has tried to persuade her parents to get online, to no avail. She blames inertia for their lack of interest.

Yvonne is luckier as her father, Patrick Tan, learned how to use a PC when he opted to retire in 1996 (see first story). She was delighted that her father took to surfing naturally once he got comfortable using the PC.

``I am proud of him, especially because I know many people his age have an unfounded fear of computers,'' she says.

Indeed, she says she's become closer to her father since he went online.

``I have been away from home since I was young, and the only way we kept in touch was through the telephone. Since chatting on the Net is much less expensive, we can now communicate as often as we please,'' she says.

Anne, on the other hand, is planning to set up a PC at home for her father who recently retired.

``My father is not the sort who will sit around and watch sunsets day after day. He must be up and about. Since he enjoys reading and watching television, I thought that getting him online would be great -- at least he can talk to my eldest sister and her children in Australia everyday,'' she says.