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BY Mahima Bhalotia

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Have you been constantly interrupted by your mother for help in using WhatsApp, or figuring out the Wi-Fi? Making the elderly more tech savvy has been a clear objective for me since last year when I launched The Social Paathshala. The idea is to empower the seniors with digital knowledge and make them self-reliant.

While we started doing this offline, the lockdown forced us to take the online model approach.

I came upon this idea when a colleague of mine told me how his parents have difficulty in calling an Uber. If you read the news today, there are increasing cases of online frauds, the victims of which are the elderly.

In order to help them stay educated about how they can stay safe from frauds, I have already organised three free sessions in collaboration with two NGOs – Yeh Mera India and HUM Communities. Those who want to know more about a topic attend my Sunday sessions, which are in-depth classes on a particular topic.

I feel very proud to share that many of my 'students' are above 70 years of age and are very interested to know about social media platforms like Twitter.

One common observation which I have noticed among older people is that if they click something by mistake, or hit a wrong button, they think ‘phone kharab ho jayega.’ That is one constant fear which I have noticed and I have worked to help them overcome that anxiety.

One uncle, after attending ten classes, is now confident and is no longer afraid of doing simple things like downloading an application. I am conducting online sessions and currently teaching in two languages – Hindi and English. Through my initiative, I help all my students adapt to the ‘new normal’, and clarify their doubts at a mutually decided convenient time over a call.

While I started this initiative with a very philanthropic objective, a lot of people didn’t feel comfortable taking classes without paying for them, so I decided to charge a nominal fee of Rs 99 for group sessions and a little bit more for personal sessions.

In the future, my team and I hope to reach out to senior citizens across the country. I always make sure that all my sessions are cheerful, interactive, friendly and informative for all my 'young at heart' students. There is something immensely satisfying in helping the elderly navigate the online world.

The expression of joy on their faces after learning something they thought they never would, is indescribable.  


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Tags : backbeat Mahima Bhatolia Social Paathshala senior citizens