Technology has become an essential part of our day-to-day lives and evolution of smartphones has contributed greatly towards it. From getting groceries delivered to your doorstep to paying bills online and traveling cashless, smartphones have smoothened our lives in many ways. However, today’s older adults are a generation who have seen a massive shift in lifestyle with the growth of the digital era. From trunk calls to speed dials and one-touch utilities, their communication system has changed drastically, which may seem challenging for them to adapt to.
Most of us often help our seniors at home to accommodate with the newer technology, though it’s mostly limited to teaching them to dial-up a number or save a contact on the no-button phone-sets. There is an organization, however, that is working towards making seniors digital-friendly.
HappyAging visited Saathi Haath Badhana, an NGO that believes in empowering senior citizens to be digitally independent. Founded in 2014, Saathi Haath Badhana social foundation (SHB) works on developing psycho-social space of mental wellness within the community.
Watch the video on our conversation with the founder of Saathi Haath Badhana and volunteer-leader Janaki Visvanath at their center at Aundh, Pune.
Importance of Technology
Families nowadays are becoming smaller with members moving away for studies or jobs, with older adults living by themselves. Smartphones have been quite instrumental in empowering older adults with basic requirements in today’s world. Everything, from video calling the family members to digital payments of utilities to sending the medical reports to your doctor through WhatsApp or to booking an auto, is possible through a click on your mobile phone.
Post demonetization, the boom in digital transactions has also curbed the requirement to stand in queues at the banks or bill desks. The know-how of technology has now become a critical life skill, whether for communicating with others, getting information, for financial purposes or for entertainment. However, for a senior who has not used technology for nearly his/her whole lifetime, it becomes a challenge.
Technology is changing rapidly and it is important for all to be future-ready, points out Janaki. One key learning for all generations is to keep our minds open to learn newer things that can improve the quality of life.
Need of Smartphone Assistance for Elderly
A lot of seniors are staying alone and find it difficult to use smartphones efficiently in order to connect with their children or use it for daily tasks. Many of them living with their families ignore their queries and doubts when they see their children and grandchildren busy in their daily routines. They are constantly faced with challenges of even simple tasks like saving a contact or dialing a number. This proves to be a major hurdle for them to keep themselves up with the times and some also easily slip into depression. Moreover, talking about these issues becomes difficult for them as they have a constant fear of being judged or misunderstood.
SHB, therefore, started the ‘Technology for Seniors’ program where the volunteers help older adults familiarize themselves with the various aspects of gadgets and technology, in which smartphone assistance is one useful series.
The young volunteers help the seniors in the session on various topics like how to book a cab, or how to pay their bills online, or just answering the doubts of a payment wallet Vs an UPI.
Apart from the Smartphone classes, SHB also conducts a Senior Citizens’ Wellness Programme. This program basically works in making older adults take charge of themselves and their health.
Janaki says that in case an older adult (or their children) thinks that there are certain changes in their health, there is a basic screening process that the foundation helps them with. A neuropsychologist who volunteers with SHB assesses their health and decides whether they should get themselves checked up. The geriatric doctor on their panel advises the older adults on various health aspects they might face.
SHB also maintains a list of palliative care centers and caregivers so that older adults who need support at home can avail the services with ease. They also have an extensive list of old-age homes and other centers whose services older adults living alone can opt for.
Saathi Haath Badhana, true to its name, works towards building an extended support system for older adults where they feel cared and patiently listened to without being judged. Seeing a confident group of seniors at SHB who proudly use cab booking applications on their own and pay their bills online is a positive sight – indeed a step towards the dream of Digital India. HappyAging whole-heartedly wishes them good luck in their efforts with the programs for elderly and encourages the idea of becoming future-ready to be more sustainable in the fast-changing world around us.
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