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IT Device Use Growing Popular With Elderly

Posted April. 15, 2008 03:08,   


High-tech gadgets such as digital cameras, MP3 players and other devices have been considered the exclusive domain of the younger generation, but are gaining rapid popularity with senior citizens.

○ Elderly crave camera phones, MP3 devices

To think that the elderly shun the use of a camera phone is now seen as prejudice.

LG Electronics had been developing a cellular phone targeting senior citizens. A survey conducted in June last year for product upgrades brought about surprising results, showing the elderly also want to use digital cameras as much as young people.

LG’s chief researcher Yu Il said the survey made the company reconsider its manufacturing strategy for mobile phones for the elderly, which had sought to remove the digital camera function.

Kim Sun-nyeo, a 62-year-old resident of Seoul, said, “I love to take photos of my grandchildren with my camera phone.”

Next on the elderly’s wish list is MP3 gadgets. Bae Sang-min, professor of industrial design at Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology, has introduced a new MP3 player with simple functions and a minimal number of buttons for easier use by senior citizens.

Thanks to the growing demand for digital devices by the elderly, customized courses and classes for them are also on the rise.

In March 2006, an IT institute for the elderly in the southern Seoul suburb of Ansan began a class on using digital cameras for senior citizens.

With a maximum 30 students per class and seven months of coursework, the class is so popular among the elderly that early registration is required to guarantee a spot. The rising of user created content among the elderly has also prompted the institute to start a class for digital camcorders.

○ “Learning to use a computer is the best thing I’ve ever done.”

“One day, I saw my grandsons play computer overnight, so I told them to let me in. They refused, saying, ‘This isn’t something you can do.’ That’s when I began learning how to use a computer at age 77.”

Byeon Yong-hee, 85, is the eldest student at the institute. After seven years of classes, she has become a computer expert and freely uses video editing software, which even youngsters find difficult to learn.

Cho Gyeong-seok, 80, established an Internet homepage for her son, who runs a rice cake shop. She helps him receive orders from customers. She says she is now engrossed in computers and cannot imagine life without one.

Kim Geun-hee, 70, learned how to use a computer to save on phone charges while her son studied in Britain. She chatted online instead of calling him.

“Teaching him across the world how to make plain boiled chicken using the computer became a pleasure in my life,” Kim said. “I think one of the best things I’ve ever done is how to use a computer.”

Institute director Ra Yong-su said, “It is a common mistake to believe that the elderly don’t like digital gadgets. It is urgent to narrow the generational divide by offering IT education to senior citizens.”

sukim@donga.com kini@donga.com