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Silver surfers get smartphone savvy

China Daily | Updated: 2017-08-10 07:39

China had more than 230 million people age 60 or older at the end of last year, accounting for 16.7 percent of the total population, according to the Ministry of Civil Affairs. The country's elderly will account for about one-quarter of the population by 2030.

Closing the gap between the elderly and new technology can be an effective way to solve many of the problems associated with aging, and can open up a whole new social aspect to the lives of seniors.

Fu used to work at Beijing Enamel Factory, which produces cloisonne. Since retiring, she visits Beijing's Tiantan (Temple of Heaven) Park each morning, before going to the vegetable market and returning home to make lunch.

"My daughter was very busy. She installed some apps for me, but had no time to show me how to use them. I'm a slow learner," Fu said.

Fu stuck a small piece of paper on the back of her phone, with her screen name and phone number written on it.

"I can't remember much, but technology helps me connect with old friends. I feel young again," she said.

Staying young

The name See Young is derived from an ancient Chinese poem that states, "The sun never rises twice in one day."

However, Zhang said that "learning how to navigate the tech world can help seniors stay young".

Zhang Jin, a 61-year-old former pharmacist, is learning how to use shared bikes, manage money online and create video content. "In a rapidly developing society, we are afraid of being left behind by the young. So we must make efforts to get to grips with new technology," Zhang Jin said.

Supported by government funds and donations, See Young's courses cover mobile payments, online hospital registration, WeChat use and creating video content from images and music. Each course provides a lecturer and several volunteers.

Wang Xianggui, a 22-year-old See Young lecturer and junior student with the university, said: "The kind of courses given are based on our research. For example, as the older generation treasures memories of the past, we teach them how to use an app to digitalize old photos."

Digital groups also provide education on security. Another co-founder, Luo Xu, said the elderly are often targets for financial fraud, so they offer a class on what to be wary of.

The nonprofit organization has published three books. It has also filmed 10 online courses since July, helping local communities to organize lessons and activities without See Young's participation.

"Our priority is connecting the older generation with technology. We plan to cover more topics that they are passionate about, such as cultural heritage," Luo said.

Wang said that in addition to enjoying an easier life offered by technology, some seniors attend courses just to chat to others and avoid loneliness. Wang, an information engineering major, plans to work for an internet company after graduating.

"Perhaps I will be able to help seniors connect with technology in another way, like inventing more senior-friendly digital tools," he said.


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