Computer Literacy and Senior Citizens
 
Avani Maniar
Mitali Shah    
 
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Computers are the future whether we like it or not. Some people dislike computers, because of the complications it takes to understand the basics. Computers are not exactly the easiest tools to work with, but they are the most rewarding, and they are the future. Computers find a wide variety of applications in different spheres of life. With an increase in their widespread use and their ever-increasing popularity, computer education has become the need of the day.

Importance of Computers for Senior Citizens

Computers can present unique opportunities for older adults to socialise and establish social networks that can help alleviate loneliness and alienation. For senior citizens with mobility problems or senior citizens that life geographically far away from their family members, the computer-based communication such as e-mail or instant messaging, can provide needed “virtual” social support from their family members. What should not be forgotten is that online participation of senior citizens is not only beneficiary to these people, but also to the society. Senior citizens have a vast amount of knowledge and experience in life that they can share by using this technology, by being involved in for example online communities.

Computers and the Internet can become a major part of the lives of the elderly. Computer as a technology is emerging very fast. Learning new computer skills can enhance interest of elderly towards literacy. When we learn something new on the computer the result is a sense of accomplishments and satisfaction that invariably creates a feeling of well-being. The human mind can sense its own growth, and feels emboldened when that growth occurs on a regular basis. Computers have the potential to become a powerful tool in the lives of seniors in need.

Computer as an information technology is emerging very fast. The same enjoyable pleasures that occur when any of us master a new computer skill can have therapeutic value to both young and old. The field of technology use with the old age people has barely begun to be explored. Within a few years there is bound to evolve several subdivisions within the larger field of computer use and the senior citizens.

Computer could become a key instrument in alleviating many of the frailties of old age. The Senior citizens, who would learn computer skills, may show slight elevations in positive attitude toward life and more independent to solve their own problems. It suggests that the learning of computer could bring about revolution in making the lives of elderly more comfortable and more valuable. Online banking and investing give them control of their saving.

Online shopping makes it easier than ever to spend their money, too. Because of the growth of computer technologies, we now live in an information society—where information is considered to be an extremely valuable commodity. Those who control important information, or who simply know how to access and use it, are key players in the information-based economy.

Other benefits are as follows:

Communicating with their children and grand children.
Reaching out to their past contacts.
Using the Internet for entertainment.
Online railway/air ticket booking.
Surfing for Senior citizens websites.
Solving their health related problems online.
Gaining knowledge in the area of their interest.
Banking and shopping online.
Storing important documents.

Looking to the various benefits of learning computer and internet it was decided to undertake an action project on “Promoting computer literacy course with Jan Shikshan Sansthan amongst senior citizens of Vadodara city.”

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Objectives of the Project

To develop understanding regarding basic computer knowledge among selected senior citizens of Vadodara city.

To develop skills in utilisation of computer in daily life among selected senior citizens of Vadodara city.

To study the reactions of the senior citizens regarding the basic computer literacy course implemented for them.

Implementation of the Project

In order to promote computer literacy for senior citizens it was important to identify an organisation that is involved in the field of computer literacy. “As people grow older, their abilities change; they need more help and attention for learning.” (Heller et al., 2000)

The following pre-requisites were felt necessary to promote computer literacy among senior citizens.

Any centre with good infrastructure facilities like premises place, furniture, light, ventilation, computer lab etcetera was required for smooth running of the project.
An efficient computer teaching faculty was required under the project, to work as instructor to monitor the project closely.
Senior citizens must be given some incentive in terms of concession on fees for learning computer as most needed technology in later years of their life.
Sufficient and suitable time should be provided by organisations for the computer literacy programme.
Some kind of feasibility should be allowed by the organisation in terms of conducting examination, distribution of certificates, good faculty members and some learning material.

Considering these pre-requisites for the project, it was decided to seek collaboration with the Jan Shikshan Sansthan as it fulfilled all the requirements. The director of the Jan Shikshan Sansthan agreed readily to provide all the facilities required for the project.

A common understanding of the role of the project worker and Jan Shikshan Sansthan was worked out and clarified between the two, as follows:

Role of Project Worker

Act as a liaison person.
Promotion of course through publicity.
Act as a tutor for three days in a week – Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday.
Distribution of Booklet as reference material for use of Senior Citizens.

Role of Jan Shikshan Santhan

Fulfillment of all requirements mentioned in the project proposal like facilities at the computer centre with optimum infrastructure, fee concession, conduct of achievement tests and issue of certificates to the participants.

Support and help throughout the project in terms of:

Extra practice for the senior citizens on computers.
Time adjustment in case of emergency.
Hands-on in the computers (Practical training) on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.

The content was adopted from the manual of Jan Shikshan Sansthan. “Office Automation Course” was decided as a basic computer literacy course for senior citizens. The duration of course was 2 months, daily 1 hour except Sunday.

The programs/components of the content were validated by the experts in the field of computer literacy. Content was suitable in terms of ability of senior citizens to learn new things, Usage and advantages of computer in daily lives. The major programs / components offered under this course were following:

Introduction to Computer
Typing
Microsoft Word
Microsoft Excel
Microsoft PowerPoint
Internet Explorer

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Selection of Strategies for Teaching Senior Citizens

It has been proven in various studies that certain biological and physical changes take place as person ages. Senior citizens required time to changing and adapting to new technologies. In order to teach new skill, like computer technology, one must adopt some strategies and teach accordingly. (Worcester, 1990)

Senior citizens often learn differently than younger students, and require more individualised attention. So the strategies for teaching senior citizens also differ from any other group. The following strategies were decided under the project.

Show Respect and Patience

Repetition of instructions

Demonstration on how to use specific programs

Motivation at each level

Appreciation

Many seniors believe that they cannot learn new things at their age, and view the computer as intimidating. By encouraging them and talking to them about their fears can help them to understand that they can also learn this new technology. Repetition is very essential part for teaching senior citizens.

Demonstration for using specific programs, such as Microsoft Word and Excel etcetera should provide clear understanding. At this age senior citizens need more care, support and motivation at each level to fight with the fears in their mind. So these strategies were selected by the project worker for teaching senior citizens a basic computer literacy course.

Enrollment of Senior Citizens for the Course

Enrollment of senior citizens was based on “first come first serve” basis. The interested senior citizens who enquired earlier for the course were around sixty five. Out of these, forty senior citizens confirmed their admissions for the course. Information related to age and education was required for enrolment. Two passport size photographs were given by senior citizens for the fulfillment of enrolment formalities as Rs.700/- fees were paid by them to undergo for the computer literacy.

Training Session for Faculties in Teaching Computer to Senior Citizens

The centre has two faculties appointed for the purpose of helping the project worker in training Senior Citizens. Both the faculties were experts in the field. Both were highly qualified with the Degree of Computer Application. They had two years experience in the field of computer literacy. They taught computer to almost all age-groups of people except the old age/ senior citizens. So initially they were afraid to teach senior citizens in the absence of the project worker. Hence, a session was held between the faculties and the project worker to take care of their doubts and make them to realise that the work they do will have value for Senior Citizens. At the end of the session the fear about teaching seniors was removed from the minds of the faculties .The project worker provided information to the faculty members for teaching seniors with the different kind of methodology. It was possible for the project worker to create awareness among senior citizens with regards to characteristics, attitudes, learning behavior required on the part of Senior Citizens as learners. Thus, knowledge supported with practical experience proves quite useful in the project and success for final outcome.

Evaluation of Senior Citizens through Achievement Test

After the completion of the course, Achievement Test was held at the center for evaluating the learning ability of senior citizens. The examination was categorised in two parts according to the code of conduct of an organisation, which are as follows:

1.  Theory   2.  Practical   3.  Oral

The theory test was conducted with the weight-age of 100 marks and practical exam respectively. Oral test was for 50 marks, So the total marks were 250. The Senior citizens were given grades according to their performance in achievement test. Fifteen percent of the senior citizens obtained OS grade. Half of the Senior Citizens obtained A Grade. Where as little less than thirty percent (25%) of the Senior Citizen obtained B Grade. And only ten percent of the Senior Citizens obtained C Grade.

Problems Faced in Conducting the Project

Project worker faced problems in identification of the organisation ready to provide necessary facilities and provisions for the project.

It was difficult to convince the senior citizens for joining the basic computer literacy course.

Initially it was difficult for the project worker to reach senior citizens because of their ego in learning from younger tutor.

Initially it was difficult for the project worker to develop skills in senior citizens regarding operating mouse.

Conclusion and Suggestions

Computer literacy provides an opportunity to the senior citizens to gain competence to live with the digital world. Through the project senior citizens got sensitised towards the computer literacy. Seeing the enthusiasm of senior citizens it was felt that other computer courses like Data entry operator, Designing, Tally also should be taken up for the senior citizens.

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References


  1. Bond, J. (1999), Aging in Society, Sage Publications, New Delhi
  2. Groves, Slack, T. (2004), “A study on effects of computer skill on elderly”, Ph.D Dissertation, Paramount Publications, New York
  3. Harvey, J. (1983), Educational Uses of the Computer, Rand McNally & Company, Michigan
  4. Huysmans, A. (2002), Computer literacy-what should it be?, Vol.74.No.9,Sage Publications, New Delhi
  5. Mishra, S. (1987), Social adjustment in old age, B.R. Publications, New Delhi
  6. Sasthoori, R. (1996), The Problems of the aged, Uppal Publishing House, New Delhi
  7. Sharma, K. (2008), Indian Journal of Gerontology, Vol.22.No.2, Nalesh Publication, New Delhi