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The elderly and those trapped in the digital abyss: “As much as they want they can’t” | technology


“Passive euthanasia is that we have to make an appointment for everything. Passive euthanasia is that we try to ask for that appointment over the phone and the machine answers us,” says the letter that Asuncion Manresa Mera sent to the director of this newspaper last week. The 78-year-old considers “computer-assisted death” the burden of living in the digital abyss. A cry for help he shares with no less than a fifth of the Spanish population. Adults over 65 years of age are the people who, to a large extent, passively viewed bank branches, management procedures and the relationship with the doctor become a mobile application. A device in which letters and numbers are lowercase, terms are unknown, or where there is not always a human being on the other side. There are many, like Asunción, who seek help because they now depend on their children, grandchildren, or other people to do for them what they do not understand or cannot do.

According to a report by the National Observatory of Technology and Society, 64% of the Spanish population possess at least basic digital skills. A figure ten points above the average in Europe, but still far from reaching the European Commission’s target of 80% by 2030. But in terms of age, the gap is even higher: only 27% of adults are between the ages of 65 and 74 They have basic skills, such as the ability to search and interpret information on a screen, and to communicate through or use digital tools to solve everyday problems.

The Expertclick workshop, from Fundación Cibervoluntarios, is one of the initiatives to rescue those trapped in the digital divide. The assistants gradually reach the classroom of the Fraternidad de los Cármenes neighborhood association in Madrid, and stay smart phonesNotepad and pen. Some bring notes from the last meeting or doubts they had during the week. All of them, women over 60, have taken the first step to discovering the world of technology, losing their fear of cell phones, learning how to navigate the Internet and, who knows, even running a health center. When volunteer Mar Russell asks, “Do you have any doubts?” Questions piling up.

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“I had to go get the security item from me.” for the numbers came out so small, that I could hardly see well. For me, it is convenient to raise the screen and that’s it, – one of the assistants admits.

– Will we learn how to put the phone in an emergency? – asks another.

– Sorry, it turns out that there has been a change in terms. Besides, it’s just gone…the camera is fixed here and now it’s gone,” interrupted Antonia, the 77-year-old.

“Maybe you had a system update or something.” When they ask you to accept the terms, you have to find out if it’s an app you entered and whether or not you want to keep it. If it is public, then you have no choice but to accept it, – the volunteer answers.

“Did you change it?”

Antonia is worried. When things go missing, or messages appear that he doesn’t understand where they come from, he gets confused because he doesn’t know what’s going on on the screen. What it does know is to add new contacts and it “handles WhatsApp very well”. “But whatever… what is it called?” , thinks for a few seconds, “Apps, they’re so complicated,” he continues. Her companions, the Dozen, ask each other and the volunteer. All at once. They are doubts and openings for those who feel suffocated by not knowing how to use the phone as they like. Antonia also does not have Wi-Fi at home and only connects when she goes to places like the Assembly.

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“Do you need it?”

“No, I don’t want to complicate my life,” he admits.

Attendees of the Expertclick workshop at La Fraternidad Association in Los Carmenes, Madrid.
Attendees of the Expertclick workshop at La Fraternidad Association in Los Carmenes, Madrid.Santi Burgess

various barriers to inclusion

Refusal, by saying “I don’t want to” or “I don’t need it,” is usually one of the first barriers they encounter when approaching technology. Then there is relying on someone to help them with time and dedication. This is provided by Mar Roussel and other volunteers from the Foundation. Jose Manuel Moro Picado, a 66-year-old retired computer scientist, has supported about 300 people in towns near Valladolid. By his account, many of those present thank him because sometimes their families are impatient. Ignorance breeds fear. When you give him a smart phone For someone who has never seen it, he is completely unaware of it. He explained to EL PAÍS over the phone that they understand that this is what costs us the most.

Added to these difficulties are the physical limitations of age, such as loss of vision and hearing. There’s also language, which is often words or phrases they’ve never heard of. They find it difficult to understand what the “Terms and Conditions”, “Security PIN” are or why they have to decline “biscuit Undesirable.” “There are things I don’t understand, I’m home alone and I don’t know how to do it. Also, I don’t risk messing up because I can delete them. Then I don’t remember,” says Berta, 77, who manages paperwork and banking well, “but without a phone.”

Maria, 61, is the youngest of the group. He attended the workshop because he “needed to learn” to navigate the Internet. He doesn’t want to make online purchases because he “doesn’t like” to enter card details. Nor the complexity of managing appointments at the health centre, but yes, you want to be able to buy a train ticket. “I installed the app, but I don’t see it here. I don’t know if I have it somewhere,” he indicates while swiping from one side of his mobile screen to the other. For now, he says, he’s going “straight to Renfe,” but hopes that after the workshop, he’ll be able to plan his next trips without leaving home.

We always talk about the bureaucratic parts and it seems that we are only citizens (…) But also technology is to continue to increase knowledge, to be informed, to make the purchase.

Yolanda Rueda, founder of Cibervoluntarios, stresses that a person who needs to seek help to carry out an administrative procedure is in a state of digital vulnerability. But beyond paperwork, other areas of life, such as entertainment or culture, have also moved to the screen. “We’re always talking about bureaucratic parties and it seems like we’re just citizens, we’re seen as people who pay the treasury, who have to do business online or ask for a medical appointment. But technology is also to keep increasing the knowledge, to be informed, to make the purchase. That gives them Autonomy and autonomy,” adds Rueda.

Maria Angels Gutierrez, 73, stated that electronic means became the only way to carry out the tasks and activities that she had done with other people throughout her life. “We have to catch up because we are getting further and further behind. You can’t go to the banks. Now everything is technology,” he says. From transportation to entertainment, from culture to information, all on one screen. “I also have my phone connected to the watch, and I see how I sleep or strain, I get WhatsApp, it represents the steps I’ve taken. He continues today 7650. This year he gave him his son Alexa.” I ask him questions, for example, what’s the temperature to see what clothes I’ll wear , If it’s going to rain … I also ask him to turn on the radio or the TV,” he said by phone from Tudela de Duero, a town in Valladolid.

Likewise, he has participated in Cybervolunteers workshops and today he is exploring his mobile apps “without fear”. Use Youtube to see recipes for cooking or sewing things, maps to locate you when you go out and the camera to read QR codes at restaurants. To the list of things to do or do with a mobile phone or computer, we can mention train, bus or plane tickets, which are sometimes almost impossible to buy in person or transfer through VTC applications, such as Uber, Bolt, Cabify, In the cities where these services are located.

Gutiérrez considers himself an exception for someone his age and sympathizes with his teammates who are not as capable. “When you have to learn it, it’s very difficult, and it’s not like when I was young, when I went to school and learned to read (…) There are a group of people who are not as advanced as I am. As much as they want to, they can’t. It’s complicated.”

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