Why ‘millenniors’ like Facebook

In Photo: Lilia (right), 60, learned how to take selfies and what finger hearts are.

Sometimes, we’re impatient with old people. Many of us are guilty of that. But just think, if we took a few minutes to teach them how to use a smartphone or a tablet, wouldn’t life be easier for them—and for us? They could hail a car via Grab and have food delivered via those delivery apps.

But you know what they really love more than any other app? Facebook! They love Facebook because it allows them to keep in touch with old classmates and friends and relatives.

My mother’s life hasn’t been the same since she learned how to navigate the Internet. Her knowledge is still very limited but she can, at least, do Facebook, Instagram and Google. I wish she could learn how to book rides via Grab because it would make it easier for her to go around.

Studies have shown that the elderly are prone to feelings of loneliness and isolation, and Internet use can help keep depression at bay.

“It all has to do with older persons being able to communicate, to stay in contact with their social networks, and not just feel lonely,” said Sheila Cotton, a Michigan State University professor who led one such research project.

Lilia Cos, 60, and Wiseña Relente, 57, recently completed—and topped—a short course from which they emerged as the most social-media savvy seniors.

Both residents of Barangay 672 of Paco, Manila, the women belong to the latest batch of graduates of the Smart “Millenniors” program that enables the elderly to keep in step with technology.

The seniors learned to use smartphones and mobile data, open a Facebook account, take selfies and upload them. Their teachers were millennials who are students of Adamson University; hence the name of the program.

Millennior Lilia is the batch “valedictorian.” She lamented that she is the only one among her siblings who can’t visit the family home in Bulacan regularly, due to the cost and effort of travel. Those overseas have been there more often.

Thanks to Facebook, even her siblings in Japan and Germany no longer seem so far away.

“Finally, we’re talking! I haven’t seen you in a long time,” one of them exclaimed on their first contact. Lilia also gets to keep in touch with friends in Laguna and Cavite through Facebook Messenger.

Wiseña discovered a way to escape from her daily routine. When she’s done with her chores, she doesn’t just put her feet up. She watches videos on YouTube, particularly her favorite telenovela.

“It takes my stress away,” said Wiseña, who is subscribed to Smart’s an-hour-a-day Free YouTube promo. “I think seniors often feel left out. Usually, their grandchildren are constantly on their phones, hardly talking to them,” said Marielle Tuazon, one of the Adamson students.

Lilia’s mentor, Kathryne Alexandra Quel, admired her ward’s determination.

“She continued to explore her smartphone even outside of our sessions together,” said Kathryne. After learning to make a video call and join a group chat, Lilia went on nightly video calls with her siblings abroad. She wants to learn more.

For Jhontrix Catorce, another trainer, the best part was helping the seniors to express to their loved ones how they feel.

“I want to teach this to my parents as well,” he said.

Lilia finds Facebook to be the ideal place for expressing one’s feelings. “I like that Facebook asks me, ‘What’s on your mind?’ and I can use those hugot lines,” she said. “I also like posting Facebook statuses because of the reactions I get.”

“At first, I used to be just a ‘lurker’ in our family group chat, not understanding fully how it worked,” said Lilia. “Once, my granddaughter called me out for repeatedly using winking emojis: ‘You might strain your eye with all that winking!’” she recalled, laughing.

The seniors of Barangay 672 are the second batch of Smart Millenniors from Manila, the first being those from Barangay 734, also in Paco. In May Smart brought the program to Cebu, for members of the Philippine Association of Retired Persons, in cooperation with EduStudio and Coalition for Better Education. In Iligan City the program was held in barangays Dalipuga and Santiago, with volunteers from MSU-IIT School of Computer Studies.

For promoting the teaching of technology among seniors and engaging the youth in this endeavor, the Smart Millenniors program won an Award of Merit at the recent 16th Philippine Quill Awards, and a Silver Anvil at the 53rd Anvil Awards in March.

“We are getting closer to our goal of making thr Internet truly for all, as more seniors participate in the Smart Millenniors program,” said Smart Public Affairs Head Ramon Isberto. “As the world becomes increasingly digital, we are working to make sure that nobody gets left behind.”

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Dinna's dream is for every child in the Philippines to be well-fed, well-shod and be in school on the way to getting a college education. If she didn't have to work for a living, she'd probably be taking care of 10 dogs, all of them long-haired chihuahuas.