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Golden Surfers
The age gap blurs
Keeping up with the youngsters
Feeling like a youngster
Recruiting golden surfers
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Profiles of Seniors Online
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Personal portraits of Seniors Online
From Microsoft Seniors & Technology website 
"How the Internet Has Changed My Life"
A poem from Microsoft Seniors & Technology website  

Keeping up with the youngsters

One of the greatest motivators for older people to become computer-literate is to keep pace with their children and grandchildren.

Dr Rugmini Chandran, 61, took the cyber plunge on the insistence of her two daughters, who were both studying in India. Rising phone charges and collect-calls from India were also a prime motivator.

By her own diagnosis, the doctor is technophobic and shys away from manipulating anything mechanical, be it the VCR or microwave. "I never used a computer. The prospect of having to do so was scary. I remember my first time, the cursor kept moving all over the place and I couldn't control the mouse," she says on purchasing a Pentium multimedia PC.

Close family friends coached her on weekends for about a month and she also solicited help from more Net-savvy relatives and friends. Soon she was sending email and surfing like a pro. "My two daughters in India write to me almost daily now and my husband and I look forward to their emails. They're a bit disappointed about my brief replies, though, on account of my slow typing," says Dr Rugmini, who runs her own clinic in the small town of Kuala Kangsar.

She recalls a recent late night phone call from her daughter in India desperately requesting a recipe for a special dish to celebrate Onam, a Hindu festival, and insisting mum email it immediately. "It was daunting to type, but somehow I managed," she says, delighting in the ability to still play mother despite the distance.

Dr Rugmini, who migrated to Malaysia in the early 70s, also emails friends and relatives in Bahrain, Singapore and various parts of India. Her eyes sparkle at the wealth of information the Internet has opened - particularly on her home state of Kerala, sites in the Malayalam language, letting her listen to her native music, and follow the political scene there.

Barely three months into her online adventure, Dr Rugmini has been transformed into a technology aficionado and is tempted to get a PC for her clinic, buy a scanner to send pictures, and perhaps dabble with chat programs.

Retired avionics instructor Ron Whiting, 71, marvels at the tremendous progress PCs have made in recent years, recalling his first exposure to a Sinclair ZX 81. "It had 1Kb memory and you had to look at the black and white screen after every keypress to check whether a character had been typed," he says.

In the last six years of using computers, Whiting has taken the upgrade path from a 286 to 386, 486 and finally a Pentium, and progressed from electronic bulletin boards to the Internet.

Despite espousing the hardware, Whiting has misgivings on the current software and believes it will put off older folk from taking the plunge. "It is not sufficiently user-friendly or intuitive," he says cursing a recent Win 95 to Win 98 upgrade that messed up his email.

The Internet, however, has been a god-send in maintaining contact with his three children in Britain and renewing a 25-year-old friendship with a radio amateur enthusiast in Scotland. It has also enabled him to explore his interests in military aircraft technology and war stories.


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