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Society, family members help senior citizens gradually adapt to digital economy

(People's Daily Online) 13:18, April 07, 2021

More and more senior citizens in China have gradually overcome the digital gap, once considered an obstacle for them in adapting to and embracing the digital economy.

Nowadays, 68-year-old Zhou Yufang, who owns a fruit store in Beijing’s Chaoyang district, handles cash much less often than she used to, after she started to accept payments on mobile devices. On top of that, online shopping is no longer a difficult thing for her.

A staff member helps a senior citizen check the appointment information on a machine at Beijing Tiantan Hospital under the Capital Medical University in Beijing, capital of China, Dec. 9, 2020. (Xinhua/Chen Zhonghao)

By the end of 2020, about 11.2 percent of China’s 989 million net users were aged above 60 years old, according to the 47th statistical report on the development of the Internet in China.

To make sure senior citizens are not left behind in the digital society, local governments have intensified efforts to assist them and improved relevant services, such as organizing training courses on the use of smartphones.

To ensure smart devices do not become a barrier in the daily lives of elderly people, universities for the elderly in some cities have opened courses on the use of smartphones targeting senior citizens.

A survey conducted in Shanghai found that people aged between 60 and 70 were very eager to learn how to use smartphones, and would master basic skills such as scanning health QR codes, making mobile payments, ordering car-hailing services and making medical appointments in just a few days, said Ma Chi, a researcher with the Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences.

Reports have confirmed that neighborhood committees, nursing homes and villages have held training sessions on the use of smartphones for elderly people, not only in Shanghai, but also in other places including Sichuan, Zhejiang and Anhui provinces.

A report on people’s satisfaction with the services provided to help them better adapt to the digital economy in 2020 indicated that the digital economy played a significant role in boosting the sense of happiness among people aged 65 years old and above.

In particular, being able to use short video platforms and social media makes senior citizens most excited about the digital economy. For them, a smartphone means not only a shorter distance between the vegetable market and their home, but also a tool to keep in contact with friends and relatives all over the world.

In November 2020, the State Council launched an initiative to help seniors bridge the digital divide, introducing a set of measures to help the elderly better adjust to technological innovations.

The country’s central government demanded that smartphones with large screens and fonts, louder audio outputs and greater battery capacities be developed for elderly consumers. It also encouraged companies to roll out "senior modes" for their input methods, focusing on problems such as illiteracy, presbyopia and slow typing speed among elderly users.

However, experts also warn that senior people could easily be taken in by cell phone scammers, and thus suffer economic losses, and suggested that supervisory departments firmly crack down on illegal acts, internet companies develop rumor identification systems and family members of these elderly people make efforts to help them, as measures to jointly protect the rights of senior citizens.

(Web editor: Hongyu, Bianji)

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