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In the time of Zoom and webinars, elderly citizens overcome digital challenges to connect online, learn new skills

This year, the theme for World Elderly Day – celebrated on October 1 – is ‘Digital equity for all ages’

While pandemic-related lockdowns and other restrictions placed several challenges before elderly citizens, many of them used this time to become digitally literate. (Express photo by Shuaib Masoodi for representation)

Malati Dumbre, 74, a resident of Pune district’s Otur village, attends practically every webinar organised by senior citizen’s groups and ensures that she does not miss out on a single essay, dance or cooking competition. She has learnt how to operate her mobile and laptop, and now encourages other women in rural areas to participate in the online sessions.

Another keen participant of online classes is the increasingly digitally savvy Jyoti Sachade, 70, who is also the founder of Pune-based Mamata Charitable Foundation. Sachade wants to help the underprivileged as well as set up a day care centre ‘Aaji-Aajobachi Aaramkhurchi’, so that the elderly can engage in some kind of recreational activity. Sachade also ensures she remains digitally connected and organises free-of-cost classes on how to use a computer, among other activities, for the elderly.

Due to the many pandemic-related restrictions, the elderly in urban and rural India have faced several challenges. Many of them have, however, used this time to become digitally literate.

Anjali Raje, executive director of International Longevity Centre-India, an organisation that works with the elderly, said their free-of-cost online sessions on art and craft, Origami projects, and even German language lessons have seen sizable attendance by the elderly.

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‘Digital equity for all ages’ is this year’s theme for International Day for Older Persons, celebrated on October 1. “The theme affirms the need for access and meaningful participation in the digital world by older persons,” said Raje.

The International Longevity Centre-India on Friday organised an unique ‘Online Happy Hours Cafe’ to mark the day.

“During the pandemic, we have been holding free-of-cost online sessions with experts sharing guidance on a variety of issues. Several elderly people have actively participated in these classes… such has been the response that some of the participants sent us decorations they had made for Ganesh festival, after attending classes for the same,” Raje added.


Dumbre, who is the former president of Shri Muktai Mahila Senior Citizens’ Organisation, Otur, said it was very challenging to get women involved in the online learning process at the rural level. “However, everyone has a phone and with so many classes on how to use technology to communicate, we are having a fun experience. Every Tuesday, women in our village who want to attend participate in the webinar,” said Dumbre.

She said her day begins with practising yoga via online lessons, and ends with a zoom meeting or video call with some of her tech-savvy friends.

Vaibhav Tewari, CEO of Portea Medical — a home care medical service provider — said that due to nuclear families and the need for young family members to relocate for employment, this phase of digital equality for elders in the healthcare segment was also crucial. “We are creating a comprehensive digital-driven elderly care programme focussing on tier 2/3 towns and rural areas,” said Tewari.


The Federation of Senior Citizens of Maharashtra has also been active on this front and engaged several groups of senior citizens to participate in digital literacy classes.

Meanwhile, ILC-India is conducting a survey on how senior citizens have taken on this challenge during the pandemic.

‘Improve Covid-19 immunisation coverage of elderly population’

Dr Poonam Khetrapal Singh, regional director, WHO South-East Asia Region, said greater efforts were required in the South-East Asia region to expand Covid-19 vaccination coverage among the older population, who remain at highest risk of severe disease and death from the virus. “The older population continues to be highly vulnerable in the ongoing pandemic. Protecting them against the deadly Covid-19 virus should be our priority,” she said.

First published on: 01-10-2021 at 12:28:40 pm
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