Golden Surfers: Older netizens on the info highway

By Julian Matthews

Two years ago, retired school teacher Mohamed Abu Hassan found himself in a classroom full of teenagers – only this time he was a fellow student attending computer training.

“It’s never too late to learn,” says the 64-year-old, on his first exposure to the PC. He was as eager to get online as his young course-mates, some of whom were a quarter his age.

Three months later, he was cruising the information superhighway from his home in Kampung Jana Sambungan, in Kamunting, north of Perak – the sole person in his village plugged into the Internet.

“Sometimes, I would be at it all day and night,” says the spry pensioner. Much to his wife’s dismay. “She didn’t mind that I spent RM3,000 (US$790) on the PC, but when the phone bills went up, she wasn’t happy at all,” he guffaws.
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Teaching ’em new tricks

By Anita Devasahayam

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.

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The whys and wherefores

By Anita Devasahayam

SILVER-haired surfers may not be that common in Malaysia yet, but the trend is catching on fast here.

Just browse community sites like Geocities, Tripod and Xoom, and you will be amazed by the number of local senior citizens who have built homepages there.

They’re just ordinary people who are fascinated with the Internet, and most of them only started using computers after they’d retired.

While a few senior citizens take to computing like ducks to water, there are many more who still feel alienated from the technology. There are many barriers — lack of awareness, time, expenses, or just plain fear of taking that first step.

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A community of seniors

By Anita Devasahayam

NICHOLAS Negroponte, director of MIT’s Media Lab’s, once predicted that the initial population of the Internet would be under the age of 20, and above age 50.

He may be right after all — in the United States, numerous websites have been set up to cater to senior citizens.

Sites like SeniorNet offer members online computer classes, as well as discounts on software and computer related products.

The growing “silver surfer” population has also prompted big companies like IBM, Bell Atlantic, Intel and Microsoft to kick off volunteer programmes to help senior folk learn to use computer technologies. These programmes generally also include discount rates for the purchase of computer hardware and software.
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Never too old

By Anita Devasahayam

THERE is a story going around about a father who called up a tech support line to get some help.

“My 10-year old son and I are trying to set up our computer for Internet access,” said the father.

“Okay sir, could you please get your son on the line,” said the tech support guy.

Yes, it would seem that the young have taken over the computer world, and they rule the Internet. They can adapt easily to new changes in technology, and they have an uncanny affinity for it.

Old folks, well, they’re still struggling to understand how to programme their VCRs.

Not quite true anymore. All over the world, an increasing number of senior citizens are getting into technology, and many are now online.

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