Blogs for the old boys - and girls
By Hazel Parry Nov 22, 2006, 7:54 GMT
Hong Kong - Loneliness and being out of touch is something the elderly all over the world complain about. The world has moved on to become something quite different from the one they knew. Now messages can be sent in a blink of an eye, the daily shop made from the comfort of your sofa and bank transaction made without stepping foot in a bank.
It's not surprising that in the 'e' environment, the elderly feel isolated and lost. Retired newspaper seller Ching Man-hung felt just that way - useless and depressed - until earlier this year he discovered blogging, and it literally changed his life.
Ching is one of 150 elderly people in Hong Kong who recently completed a course in blogging - the name given to keeping an online diary or journal. Now he logs on every day, adding his comments and memories to his blog, and messaging his friends and regular visitors to his blog.
'Before, I had nothing to do. I had few friends and my children finished work late and rarely had the chance to talk to me,' he recalled in a recent interview.
'Since I started blogging, I have more friends. They encourage me in my blog.'
The course is the work of Hong Kong's Cyber Senior Network Development Association - a charity set up in 2001 with the aim of making the elderly population a part of the 'e' world.
A necessary move according to the association's executive secretary Peggy Ko Pik-kei who claims that excluding the elderly from the world of information technology is a form of deprivation.
'Today is a world where the letter 'e' is prefixed in front of all sorts of things,' said Ko. 'There's e-banking and e-services of every kind.'
Since it set up, the association claims to have taught around 10,000 people aged 50 and above - with some in their 90s - how to use computers and the internet through courses and by sending its young volunteers called 'e-angels' and tutors into the homes for the elderly.
'What we found was those just over 60s are more ready to accept new technology. They find it easy. The older old, those over 80, find it more difficult and they need more assistance, support and encouragement to overcome their fears about the internet,' said Ko.
'We begin by with showing them how to send emails, very simple things, how to use MSN. They are usually very happy to learn,' she said. 'Blogging is considered an advanced level.'
The association began running its elderly bloggers' courses in March this year with the help of government funding. In October, it launched a website (www.hkmemories.com) containing the blogs of its successful pupils. In its first month, the website received about 3,000 visitors.
'Many didn't even know what a blog was before they started the course,' said Ko. 'Some were shy and unwilling to share their stories at first, while others thought they didn't have a story to tell.
'I have been very impressed by the blogs produced. We have found them very eager to learn and some would ask to how to do more complicated things like adding music and even video to their blogs.'
But the benefits have gone beyond teaching a new skill to the elderly, says Ko. For some it has become a platform to reminisce, while others use them to communicate to family living overseas, or to express their views on current events.
For them, learning to blog has opened a door to a new way of communicating and keeping in touch with friends. A vital role when one considers Hong Kong has one of the world's highest rates of elderly suicides in the world, with around one third of all suicides in the former British colony being among people over aged 60. For many the reason being depression and loneliness.
'It is a great way for the elderly to keep in touch and to share their own stories and experiences with each other,' said Ko. 'It's also a great opportunity for the younger generation to learn valuable lessons from the elderly. Their stories are very encouraging.'© 2006 dpa - Deutsche Presse-Agentur