Old and connected: how SA's elderly embrace a digital world

05 October 2017 - 15:17 By Suthentira Govender
The elderly are embracing the technological era.
The elderly are embracing the technological era.
Image: Gallo Images/ IStock

Surfing the net‚ getting a bit of online retail therapy and chatting on WhatsApp is no longer the exclusive preserve of the younger generations.

The elderly too are embracing the technological era‚ as is the case with The Association for the Aged (Tafta)‚ which is helping its residents “stay connected” through a novel campaign launched in the annual Week of Older Persons‚ this week.

Whether it’s online shopping‚ research or keeping in touch with family‚ Tafta’s media centres are allowing more pensioners to adapt to the digital world in order to keep up with the times.

According to a 2015 Nielson Global Generational Lifestyle survey of 30 000 people‚ “older people are embracing a more technology-driven world”.

The survey found that 52% of babyboomers - those now between the ages of 55 and 70 - admit that their mealtimes are not technology-free. It also showed that the silent generation - now 70 years and over - were not far behind when it came to technology and being distracted by it.

“Internet use among those 65 and older is growing. The elderly use these tools to bridge the gap between them and their loved ones far away and as a way to reconnect with friends from a far-off time‚” said Tafta CEO Femada Shamam.

“Studies show that the internet has become an important portal of reducing isolation‚ loneliness and other depression symptoms‚” Shamam said.

71-year-old Elsa Maree‚ a Tafta resident‚ has embraced online communication. She is thrilled with the new facilities Tafta has installed at six of its locations throughout Durban. “You are never too old to learn something new. I am quite excited and feel strongly that we should never limit ourselves because of our age.”

Maree spends about three hours each day on Skype and WhatsApp. Apart from keeping with family overseas‚ she uses the net to research new medication she has been prescribed. “It’s amazing how much I can get done by just the click of a button. This makes life much more convenient.”

Shamam believes the next ten years will see a “huge increase in seniors using technology”.