Agra, Feb 6 (IANS) For senior citizens of the city of the Taj Mahal, some of them well over 70-years-old, a new world of learning has opened up that keeps them young at heart.
A social organisation in the city has offered them the right place to enter the new world of communication and socialising sans borders – a computer training course where the minimum age for admission is 60 years!
“Their hands may be a bit shaky, but the will is strong. They are serious learners and their aim is to be able to communicate with the world,” says financial consultant Sudhir Gupta.
“Social networking sites like Facebook provide them with the right platform to remain connected with the outside world,” he says.
It was Respect Age International, a non-governmental organisation in Agra that works for the protection of the rights and dignity of senior citizens, which came up with the idea of providing basic computer training for the city’s seniors.
The group has tied up with Noble Academy in Madia Katra for the programme.
“The biggest problem of old age is that there is nobody around to communicate,” Surendra Sharma, a senior citizen and owner of Delhi Gate Hotel, commented.
“Youngsters don’t want to interact with seniors and the adults have no time. Living standards have now improved and health-care facilities are better. Most of these retired guys are out here to have some good fun,” Sharma says, happy with some newly learnt computer tricks up his sleeve.
For Nirmala, an ex-government employee and an elderly housewife, “computers have opened a new window of opportunity.”
It took some time for the 25 wise old men and women of Agra to realise that they had missed the bus. Now they are trying hard to pick up the thread and become IT savvy.
Girish Gupta, general secretary of Respect Age International, says: “This is the fifth batch of retired personnel who are given free computer training. This will help them use the computers and the internet not only to remain connected but also to be usefully engaged.”
According to Mahesh Chand, a retired bank employee whose best friend now is his laptop, books were the companions of old people before the computer age.
“But computers are definitely more versatile and convenient not only for communication but also for one’s own self-satisfaction. We listen to the choicest music, look for updates on the weather, to know about the economy or to check out on astrology,” says Chand.
Seniors well past 70 are at the centre, learning how to log on and connect with their grandchildren, surf the net for information and entertainment or simply have a good time, spending it creatively.
The group includes retired personnel from the railways, police, businessmen and bank officials. Anushka Kunalini is the course director.
“They come from far away residential colonies and spend considerable time here. After the classes these ‘students’ enjoy refreshments,” Gupta said.
Asked how this computer knowledge would help, one student said that he plans to write stories and articles. Another said he is keen on making birth charts (kundalis).
Tomar, Sayyed, Saxena and many others said they were enjoying the internet.
“After the basics they will teach us how to email and chat. I am looking forward to it,” said one.
“With children moving out, we need to remain connected, talk to them. The internet phones are free and less cumbersome. It’s so much fun,” says Upadhyaya.
Respect Age International was founded in early 1960s by Girish Gupta’s father.
“There has been very positive response. Many people can now afford computers, but they are hesitant to ask their children how to run the system,” Gupta said.
He added: “We do not allow young people to join the course because there would be a problem of adjustment. Old people take time and ask too many questions, but the younger ones being more comfortable with new age technology want to rush through the course.”
“Once you become computer savvy social networking sites like Facebook or Orkut give you opportunities to connect with others,” says a retired income tax officer who attends the programme.
Agra has several senior citizens, well past their prime, who use the net to file applications for official information under the right to information law and lodge complaints.
Quite a few, like the 83-year-old ex-legislator Satish Chandra Gupta, are on the Facebook and their day starts not with a cup of tea but typing out a status report on the site.
Respect Age has been running several useful programmes in Agra for senior citizens. Its own full fledged old age home is now ready in Shastripuram area, according to Girish Gupta.