[Senior citizens learning how to use the functions of a smartphone. Photo credit: Jioh Kim]
Last year, I volunteered at a service club called “Worinae” at the Wolgae Welfare Community Center in Seoul to teach the elderly how to use the functions of smartphones.
The classes took place every other Saturday from 9am to 11am. It usually consisted of six to eight senior citizens with four to five members of the Worinae teaching staff.
Preparation for this class took over a month. The steps involved in this process included making numerous presentation slides about the basic functions of a smartphone with an Android operating system and making a booklet that they could take home with them.
We chose to teach the functions of an Android operating system based on the guess that no senior citizen would be using an iPhone;luckily, we were right.
My first class took place in October of last year and I felt that I was fit for the job of assisting those who had trouble using digital devices as I often help my grandparents when they are having issues with their smartphone.
However, that first day I was surprised by the user competency level as two of the attending seniors did not know the absolute basics such as making a phone call.
They knew how to answer the phone, but had no idea how to place a call themselves.
Others did not know how to save a phone number in their contacts, so they had to manually dial every number that they wanted to call, requiring them to either memorize phone numbers or carry around a hefty phone book.
While I was at first very surprised by their low level, it made me feel sympathy for them as they were living their daily lives in the highly technologically advanced South Korea without knowing the absolute basics of smartphone use.
I wondered to myself how many hardships and discomfort they had to face because of this problem. I had seen this social issue on the news but didn’t realize how significant the issue was until I saw it firsthand.
Due to this sympathy, the members of Worinae were very determined to do our job well and provide assistance with patience and sincerity to every attending student.
No matter if the student needed an explanation on how to send a text message 20 times or how to make a video call to their granddaughter 30 times, we made sure to help them with their every need and with a smile.
I recall one Saturday morning after a few weeks of teaching students how to make voice calls, video calls, and save numbers, the class progressed to sending text messaging and the something unexpected happened. We ended up spending the whole class teaching the students how to use a Korean keyboard with Hangeul letters because nobody knew how to properly use the keyboard on their smartphones.
Unexpected issues like this happened often so classes did not always go as planned.
The gratitude we receive from the students is so heartwarming as we can really feel their sense of relief now that they can finally use a smartphone.
Through this service, I came to the realization that communities can significantly benefit from the help of us students and that it is important to assist seniors to stay connected with the younger generations.
Smartphone usage has become a foundational necessity in the modern world so teaching senior citizens how to properly use a smartphone in order to keep up with the advancing society is of utmost importance.
Unfortunately, some senior citizens have struggled with society’s transition from analog and have been left behind.
Unable to properly use ordering kiosks at fast food restaurants, digital checkout counters at hospitals, and even their own smartphones, senior citizens are at a disadvantage in high-tech South Korea.
The case was apparent during the national drive to get senior citizens vaccinated for COVID-19 as the system to book leftover vaccinations was only available online as it was most efficientwith smartphones.
I personally felt very proud because the seniors were now able to make calls and send messages to their family and friends, which keeps them stay connected with other people.
After a short break to reorganize the class and update the slides with new material, the classes will resume in April and I can’t wait to see previous students and hopefully meet new ones.
Asia Pacific International School
Jioh Kim email@example.com
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