A new modern age
Technology courses for senior citizens are helping bridge the gap between young and old
Supak Sudsawad, 81, often used to watch her daughter playing with a tablet, but had no idea how it worked. Unlike other elderly people who perhaps believed technology was something they could never understand, however, Supak usually asks her daughter how the device works. She only wished she could learn how to benefit from it.
Thanks to a two-day training course offered by Old People Playing Young Club, also known as OPPY Club, Supak now has a tablet of her own. Every day she reads news, searches for information about the medicine she takes, as well as other information that piques her interest.
"When my doctor prescribes me medicine, I often do not understand what he says, so I research it on my iPad. I do many things based on the information I get from the internet," said the retired civil servant who stays at home during the day while her daughter is out at work. Now she reads online newspaper sites and discovers online tips on how to transform garden herbs into food or juice. Although it often takes a lot of time, Supak said she enjoys doing it immensely.
Like many other members of the OPPY Club, Supak has learned about technology mainly to communicate with her children. These gadgets help many of the club's senior members from feeling lonely and also boosts their sense of self-reliance.
It has now been 15 years since the OPPY club was founded. The computer training courses, designed for people older than 45, are constantly improved and updated according to the trends of technology. When the club was initially started, it was very much the era of personal computers, so OPPY students would therefore learn about the necessary programs to create documents, make presentations and use emails.
Khunying Chatchanee Chatikavanij, the OPPY Club founder, explained that she was prompted to start a computer course for the elderly when her son, senior vice-president of Loxley, Vasant Chatikavanij, told her that the number of old people using the internet was growing faster than any other age group. Starting with just her siblings and eight senior citizens, the OPPY Club today has more than 4,800 members. At 87, the president of OPPY Club usually relies on LINE for communicating with her family and friends.
Another member of the club is Phuengchai Sookasavee who enrolled three years ago, and now aged 91 enjoys chatting with her children on her iPad via LINE. Prior to using an iPad, Pheungchai took computer lessons to be able to communicate with her grandchildren who lived abroad. Today, she finds using a tablet to send and receive e-mails from her niece and nephew much more convenient.
Suteera Chamlongsupalak, one of the club's longest-serving instructors, noted that over the past three years, technology has changed tremendously, with smartphones and tablets playing an increasingly more important role than personal computers. Courses have thus been redesigned to match user demand and technology trends. This is reflected by the user behaviour of the elderly, who, in general, prefer to use tablets and mobile devices as opposed to desktop computers.
"Using touch-screen devices is initially harder to master than using a mouse, but once the students become familiar with the technology, they enjoy it and generally think it's easier," said Suteera.
Courses that teach the basics of digital camera usage, which was once very popular, have also been replaced by one that focuses on smartphones' built-in cameras. OPPY Club's most popular classes available today are those that teach the elderly how to operate social networks, like LINE, Facebook and Instagram.
As Thailand moves towards an ageing society, Loxley has launched a new element to the OPPY Club, called OPPY Life, which is aimed at taking care of the elderly, both members and non-members, with various initiatives and products.
According to Vasant, while the OPPY Club aims to close the generation gap and help the elderly have confidence and become self-dependent, the commercialised spin off OPPY Life was set up to bring further happiness to the elderly.
18 FEB 2015
Newspaper Section: LIFE
Writer: Sasiwimon Boonruang