In Dagupan, elderly learn online chat with ‘apo’
DAGUPAN CITY—Senior citizens here have found a new playground—the internet—where they can chat with their “apo” (grandchildren), relatives and classmates, and listen to and download old songs.
The city library has been conducting computer literacy classes for the elderly, some of them in their 80s, teaching them the basic computer operations as well as how to open and manage a Facebook account or chat over Skype.
“You can really feel their excitement when they are able to connect and chat with their apo, relatives and long-lost classmates who are living in different parts of the world,” said Corazon Langit, assistant librarian.
Senior citizens, who have limited or zero knowledge about computers, are taught basic operations—“this is the monitor, this is the mouse, this is the CPU, this is how to type, this is how to erase”—she said.
“They asked many questions, too, such as what is Skype, Viber, Instagram and Facebook. They hear these words from their grandchildren who are fast learners but who are usually too impatient to explain [the latest online applications and social networking] to their grandparents,” Langit said.
Because of their advanced age, some of them suffer from poor hearing, or have memory gaps.
“After a few minutes, they would ask again, ‘How do I erase what I have typed?’” said Marilyn Caguioa, who supervises the library’s multimedia section.
She said some of the senior students would return the next day and ask, “What is my password for Facebook?”
“We ask them to write their passwords on their notebooks,” she said.
“We have to be very patient. Our patience is rewarded when we see their excitement as soon as they see the faces of their grandchildren who are living abroad, and talk with them online,” Langit said.
Source of happiness
Some grandparents said their new-found ability to interact with their grandchildren enables them to help with their homework.
Finding old classmates has been another source of happiness and pride for them.
“They would yell in delight when, after searching, they find the names of their classmates on Facebook, and their requests to be ‘friends’ are accepted. They would chat for hours,” Caguioa said.
Another thrilling discovery for the elderly folk is the website YouTube, where they find songs that were popular generations ago.
“When they find the songs, they get excited and play them, and download them in their mobile telephones, which we programmed according to their needs” Caguioa said.
These senior citizens are not necessarily poor. One of them is a former city vice mayor while another is the mother of a city councilor.
Some of them own portable computers and pocket Wi-Fi devices, courtesy of their children.
The literacy training is an outreach project of the city library. A training module for the elderly lasts for five days (Monday to Friday), from 9 to 11 a.m.
“There are absentees, too, such as when a grandmother, who is sometimes required to fetch her apo from school, asked to be excused,” Langit said.
But many return to ask about the lessons they missed or ask for information they have forgotten. Often they return to use the library computers. Some of them come, brandishing their new laptops, so they could use the library’s Wi-Fi.
As many as 70 senior citizens have been trained since the program was launched in January.
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