Digitally Savvy Seniors: How Technology Provides Vital Support For India’s Ageing Population

by Anand Parthasarathy - Oct 20, 2022 05:49 PM +05:30 IST
Digitally Savvy Seniors: How Technology Provides Vital Support For India’s Ageing PopulationGrowing old gracefully, thanks to technology (PC: Seniority)
Snapshot
  • Survey reveals, 60-75 age group is still learning, staying active, harnessing social media.

    Mobile phones, Zoom, Chrome, Facebook are most-used tools.

Earlier this week a global survey released its findings on how people aged between 55 and 75 are learning, staying active and socializing online.

The survey, conducted by GetSetUp, global organisation serving the learning needs of older adults, has released India-specific numbers from its study which throw a rare and interesting light on the lifestyles and preoccupations of Aging India.

GetSetUp is headquartered in San Francisco, US with two of its three co-founders -- Neil D’Souza and Deval Delivala —born in India.

The central finding is that technology is the tool for graceful, meaningful ageing today. Says the survey report: “As older adults increasingly embrace technology, it's transforming the way they consume content online.

"The accessibility of smartphones, tablets and other devices has enabled this generation to access learning content and information in new ways, creating a new generation of digitally savvy seniors.”

Healthcare, educational and personal technology product companies will find these India-centric findings of interest:

Senior Citizens’ Cyber Choice. (PC: Anand Parthasarathy)
Senior Citizens’ Cyber Choice. (PC: Anand Parthasarathy)

Indian device and online preferences

The mobile phone is the most popular device for media consumption – Over 72 per cent of seniors use it for accessing virtual learning and fitness help. But the desktop PC is not too far behind as nearly 26 per cent of older users prefer it.

Chrome is the dominant browser in the 55-plus age group, with 36.8 per cent of the users since it allows for sophisticated video streaming solutions.

But interestingly close to 29 per cent tend to concentrate all their Web based activities around Facebook, which shows how successful this app has been in becoming a one-stop shop for all social media and e-commerce needs of its users.

GetSetUp serves the senior community by offering a large slate of learning modules. It attracts over 4 million older adults every day, with online modules in English, Hindi, Spanish and Mandarin. 

There are numerous free lessons at its site including dozens by Indian teachers in singing, dancing, Hindustani classical music, cooking etc. 

Any senior can take up to 10 classes a week.  But those to subscribe, paying Rs 300 a month have a choice of over 500 classes a week. One perennial favourite is a session for technologically unsavvy on how to use common personal technology devices available today.

UN Decade of Healthy Ageing

Coincidentally, the United Nations has designated 2021-2030 as “The UN Decade of Healthy Ageing”,  an opportunity to work together to improve the lives of older people, their families, and the communities in which they live.

The UN says leaders all over the globe, across governments, civil society, academia, business, media, and local communities, are already working to transform the world to be a better place to grow older. “These leaders are trailblazers in what they do and how to do it.”

Dr Aparjit B. Dey figures in the UN list of “The Healthy Ageing 50” for his lifelong  services to geriatrics in India
Dr Aparjit B. Dey figures in the UN list of “The Healthy Ageing 50” for his lifelong services to geriatrics in India

Last month, multiple UN agencies including UNESCO, ILO, ITO, WHO, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights and the World Economic Forum all joined to honour what they called “The Healthy Ageing 50”,  recognised their contributions and showcased their work as inspirational exemplars, from among 500 nominations received.

There is one honoree from India: Aparajit B. Dey, Director, the Delhi-based Venu Geriatric Care Centre and Venu Charitable Society. 

“Dey has played an active role in the country’s national initiatives to promote geriatric health care through guiding the roll out of the National Programme for the Health Care of the Elderly in India and establishing geriatric medicine as a distinct and feasible specialisation for physicians through the National Medical Commission” says the citation.

“Orienting himself with WHO’s Integrated Care for Older People (ICOPE) framework, he has collaborated with the Kingdom of Bhutan and the Government of India to incorporate integrated care within their healthy ageing strategies,” it adds.

Here's a video interview with Dr Dey from YouTube, from the time when he was head of Geriatrics at AIIMS, New Delhi (2002-2020) where he throws light on “The Forgotten Ones of India”.

Senior-friendly e-commerce sites

As Dr Dey and others continue to highlight the plight of ageing Indians, savvy enterprises have read the message and are serving senior citizens with some e-commerce web portals dedicated to their needs. 

This is not an exhaustive list but a quick search of the Web identified the following sites which offer products that aged Indians and their caregivers will find useful:

Older users prefer phones with photo-based  speed dialer and a chunky SOS button.
Older users prefer phones with photo-based speed dialer and a chunky SOS button.

The last in the list, SeniorWorld specialises in just two categories that most other sites don’t touch: mobile phones and alarm devices. 

Older users are often challenged by feature-rich phones, many of whose tools they don’t use.

Their wish list includes, large, keys with a good tactile feel; a torch or a chunky emergency SOS button they can easily locate in the dark; and a speed dial where they can locate people on their favourite list by their photo.  

A selection of handsets with these and other senior friendly features as well as small hand-held emergency beepers with flashing lights can be found for sale at this site.

There was a time, a decade or more ago, when I used to receive review units of a few phones tailor-made for older users.

Some makers encouraged one to retain or give away the devices and I could always find an aged relative or friend who was glad to have the piece and moreover gave me some useful experience feedback which added authority to my review.

Today, with fingers becoming stiffer and eyesight hazier, I need not look elsewhere for an older person’s opinion. I am finally qualified to comment on many of the elder-friendly devices. How time flies (especially for us old buffers)!

Also Read: Kerala School Kids’ Project For Safely Dropping Delicate Payloads From Drone, Garners Two US Patents

Anand Parthasarathy is managing director at Online India Tech Pvt Ltd and a veteran IT journalist who has written about the Indian technology landscape for more than 15 years for The Hindu.

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