SCMP Wednesday, November 15, 2000

Elderly eager to 'surf'


Six out of 10 elderly people want to learn how to use computers but only 22 per cent have logged on in the past six months, a survey has found.
The Hong Kong Council of Social Service study highlighted the lack of support available for older people who want to acquire computer skills, researchers said.
Of 2,379 respondents aged 60 and above, 60 per cent said they wanted to use computers. More than 70 per cent believed computers could help them keep in touch with society and understand the modern world better.
More than 40 per cent said learning to use computers would close the gap between them and their children and make it easier for them to talk to each other.
But despite their enthusiasm, only 22 per cent of elderly people had used computers in the past six months.
Half of the respondents said the use of English was the biggest barrier for them to overcome, while more than 40 per cent found computers too complicated to operate. About one-third said they had no computer at home and could not afford to buy one.
"Many elderly people want to learn computer skills but don't have enough support. In some cases, they are even told by their children or grandchildren not to touch the computer at home 'in case they mess things up'," said council director Hui Yin-fat.
He said family support was essential and young people should support their elderly relatives and help them to learn.
Mr Hui urged the Government to provide free translation software and cheaper hardware for the elderly.
Ho Chong, 71, a retired medical staff member of the British garrison in Hong Kong, said he spent an average of two hours a day surfing the Internet. "I don't want to lag behind the rest of society. Now I can e-mail my children and read newspapers online. It's very convenient."