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Posted August. 24, 2010 08:10,   


Cha Sa-soon says she was more than happy when she finally passed the driver’s license test. The 69-year-old passed the written test on her 950th attempt and the final test on her 960th attempt. She also received a car from an automaker who had promised it if its blog got more than 100 messages. Netizens cheered her accomplishment with posts such as, “Her spirit of challenge is really amazing” or “I feel ashamed on having given up before.” The spirit of challenge by a senior citizen has touched the people, and her story could offer an answer in coping with the rapidly aging society.

Amid medical advances and improved living conditions in the country, the elderly are now in better shape than the younger generation. The life expectancy has increased to 100 years, meaning those in their 60s and 70s have 30-40 more years to live and they can live half as many years as they have lived so far. It is no longer unusual to see an elderly person complete a marathon or appear in musicals or movies.

Yet senior citizens have one major stumbling block to overcome: IT products such as the Internet or mobile phones. It is difficult for them to catch up with rapidly changing technologies. As soon as they learn how to send text messages, they have to learn how to tweet or use smartphones. This does not mean that the elderly should live in an outdated world, however. They should rise to the challenge and never give up to not be marginalized from the IT divide.

Among people age 60 or over, 1.46 million have used the Internet at least once in the past month, up 130,000 from a year ago, according to a survey conducted by the Korea Internet and Security Agency. The percentage of people using the Web among those aged 60 or over also surpassed the 20-percent mark for the first time, showing an increase in the number of “silvertizens” who have no difficulty using the Internet or mobile phones. Care for them remains weaker than those in the U.S. and the U.K., however. Better IT infrastructure should be created for the elderly while senior citizen-friendly products should be made to prevent the elderly from becoming isolated and to increase jobs for them.

Editorial Writer Park Young-kyun (parkyk@donga.com)