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Silver surfers get smartphone savvy

China Daily | Updated: 2017-08-10 07:39

Silver surfers get smartphone savvy

Volunteers teach senior citizens in a residential community in Ningbo, Zhejiang province, how to use smartphones.[Photo by Zhang Yongtao/For China Daily]

Nonprofit organization helps seniors stay young by teaching them how to interact and create content

In a room at the service center of Anlelin Residential Community in Beijing, Fu Guiling and her neighbors fiddle with touch screens, shaking their smartphones while giggling.

Fu, 66, was intimidated by mobile devices until she attended a course by See Young, a nonprofit organization in Beijing, which defines its mission as helping the elderly to harness technology.

Picture and video sharing, online chatting and shopping may be easy for the younger generation, but for China's more than 230 million elderly who grew up in a pre-digital age, technology often moves too fast for them to keep up.

Forgotten by tech

"What's the problem with my phone? The screen has turned black. I can't open it," Fu said to a See Young volunteer.

She was confused by the "screen lock" function. Two weeks ago, her daughter gave her an unwanted Huawei smartphone. Previously, she had never owned such a device.

"I only know how to answer the phone," she said, laughing.

However, the See Young course is teaching Fu and several of her neighbors the various ways to use social networking app WeChat, such as enlarging the font, using the "shake" function and how to create group chats.

Since it opened its doors in 2011, See Young has helped more than 18,000 senior citizens across the country and has more than 3,800 volunteers, mostly university students.

"Everything started from my beloved grandma," said Zhang Jiaxin, co-founder of See Young, which was developed by a student volunteer team at Beijing University of Posts and Telecommunications.

Born in a small town in Northwest China's Shaanxi province, Zhang was brought up by his grandmother. In 2008, he went to university in Beijing, and the only way for his grandmother to see him was through video calls.

"I taught her step by step, but she still failed to understand," Zhang said. "I realized that there must be many grandmothers in China who cannot operate computers and other modern gadgets, so I started See Young to make life easier for seniors."

Aging poses many challenges-diminished eyesight, memory loss, decreased agility. Older people often find themselves isolated by modern technology that the rest of society finds indispensable.

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