Chinese volunteers teach the elderly how to use mobile phones through service project

Once a leader in an enterprise, Yang Lin, now in his 70s only learned how to use a smartphone last summer. It was not his daughter or granddaughter who taught him how to use his mobile phone, but Wang Hui, a volunteer in the Xiangyang Road community in north China’s Tianjin where he lives.

Volunteer Sui Mingzhe (right) takes a photo with a senior during a training session. (Photo provided by the interviewee)

Volunteers like Wang and college students from over 100 universities from all over the country have been dedicated in helping senior citizens learn how to use smart phones step-by-step.

“It is not just those who are older, disabled and poor who need help, even the healthy and energetic, including those who enjoy high pensions, still face the problem of being disconnected from society and even their families if they do not use smartphones to surf the Internet,” said Zhang Jiaxin, director of a social work service center in Beijing.

Zhang added, “We should help the elderly learn how to use technology products, so that they can also enjoy the convenience that the Internet brings to people’s lives.”

Yang decided to learn how to use a smartphone when his granddaughter wanted to order food at KFC last year, the clerk said it was cheaper to order on the phone than to check out at the counter.

Needing to wear glasses for presbyopia, sometimes Yang fumbles while clicking through his mobile phone under the guidance of community volunteers. “I have to learn how to use a phone and not be afraid to be embarrassed,” he shared.

“After we teach the elderly to surf the Internet on their smartphones, they can shine again like the young,” Zhang explained, pointing out his original intention of initiating the public service project.

Over the past decade, as many as 18,742 college students from all over the country have become the backbone of public welfare activities committed in helping the elderly learn how to use the latest technology products, with the number of college student volunteers participating in the activities continuing to increase.

“These volunteers who have personally taught the elderly to surf the Internet and use mobile phones have a deeper understanding of helping senior citizens connect to the latest technology developments,“ Zhang said, noting that no matter what they do in the future, they will take the initiative to consider the needs of the elderly.

“Only when people from all walks of life pay attention and provide their support can we really help the elderly bridge the gap brought on by the development of science and technology,” Zhang said. 

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