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Home course: Helping senior citizens usher in the digital age

mumbai Updated: Nov 24, 2014 16:17 IST
Swati Goel Sharma
Swati Goel Sharma
Hindustan Times
digital age

“But why is the email not opening?”

“You must remember to press Enter.”

This conversation in a Malad house marks the beginning of an hour-long session on how to check and send emails. But the teacher-student’s roles have reversed: the instructor is 18-year-old Jainam Jain, a Jai Hind College student; the pupil is a 75-year-old retired Sociology professor.

Jain is part of eParent, a start-up founded in May that helps senior citizens usher in the digital age.

Vidushi Daga from Clone Futura teaches the Bihanis how to use their smartphones and tablets at Napean Sea Road. (Kunal Patil/HT photo)

Within six months of its inception, the company has received a steady clientele. While the firm is largely restricted to the suburbs, Clone Futura, started by Fort-resident Vidushi Daga, has been catering to south Mumbai residents for more than two years.

The freelance trainers are usually college-goers eager for pocket money; the service is offered at your doorstep, and the course, lasting a week, includes switching a computer or laptop on and off, accessing emails, Skype, social media sites, surfing the web, and messaging applications. The fee varies from Rs 2,000 to Rs 4,000.

On demand, advanced technology such as netbanking and online shopping is added to the course. Corporate firms have also started to offer the service under their social responsibility programmes. The manager of the CSR arm of a construction company said, “Over the past year, we have organised at least 200 week-long classes at various clubs and housing societies. For this, we tie up with colleges to provide us with freelance trainers.”

“In an era when the best way to stay in touch with the family involves video chats online, seniors need to adapt to new technology more than ever before. We help fill this gap,” said Hardik Shah, partner in the Malad-based eParent.

Hemant Parikh, 55, a retired businessman, who took the course last month, said he was thrilled that he could watch videos of his favourite ghazal singer Ustad Bade Ghulam Ali whenever he wished. Last week, he gifted himself a laptop, and has now got his wife enrolled for a course.

For Cuff e Parade- based retired businessman, Arjun Dhawan, 77, one such course helped him connect with his children and grandchildren based abroad. “Technology is a great tool to bridge the physical gap. Thanks to that, I also catch up with all the Bollywood classics, and brush up my knowledge on photography,” he said.

Vidushi Daga, CEO of Clone Futura, said the instructors undergo a mandatory training in patience and persistence.

“The challenges are many, as technology is a foreign language to most seniors. Once, after the course was done, I asked my student to write his email ID on a piece of paper and give it to me. He even wrote his password below the ID,” said Jain.