In Focus 12th December, 2016
Independent and Inquisitive – Nirpuma Sharma, 73 #StillGoingStrong.

A few days back I was talking to a friend about our campaign #StillGoingStrong which aims to profile women above the age of 60 who are breaking the archetypes associated with old age. As soon as I began explaining the campaign, she already had a story to share with me. She told me about one of the participants from the “Digital for Seniors” programme which she was involved with at her previous workplace. The participant was Nirupama Sharma who is 73 years old. She narrated stories of her interactions with Nirupama aunty and it was a delight hearing them. I, immediately knew that I had to follow up with the startup that runs the workshop and Nirupama aunty, for it was a story which beautifully exemplifies the message of our campaign.

ANTS is a startup based out of Gurgaon which works with the aim to make the digital world reachable, easy and inclusive for everyone. This is the startup which runs the “Digital for Seniors” programme (mentioned above). We, at Breakthrough were delighted to hear about the idea behind the programme and decided to speak to them to know more. They have had a participation of almost 200 people for these senior citizen workshops till date. And, they observed that 95% of the participants have been women. The areas which they focus on during these workshops include digital communication, utility apps, internet banking and cyber security. This structure encompasses the various motivations behind undertaking these workshops such as staying in touch with friends and family, easy access to medicines, transport etc. While it caters to the biggies like internet banking, the facilitators of the workshop also address the little things like setting reminders on the phone.

"Digital for Seniors" programme being conducted by ANTS
“Digital for Seniors” programme being conducted by ANTS (Image courtesy: ANTS)

Discussing about the workshop made me reflect on some questions and observations in my own life. While I cannot generalise based on my personal observations, what I will do here is pose them as questions. Have you noticed that women are more hesitant in experimenting with technology as compared to men? Especially at the juncture where gender intersects with age. For instance, think about your mother, your grandmother or an aunt. Have you noticed the ‘want’ to learn new technology amongst them? Is it easier for women to place themselves in a position of being a learner than a man, especially for things which are user friendly and don’t necessarily require training? The fact that 95% of participants at the workshops conducted by ANTS were women constantly popped up in my head as I thought about these questions.

Participants of the "Digital for Seniors" workshop at ANTS
Participants of the “Digital for Seniors” workshop at ANTS (Image courtesy: ANTS)

One of these 95% women is Nirupama aunty, who I managed to get in touch with through my friend. After I explained what our campaign was all about and asked her about the workshop, she patiently started to tell me the story of how her tryst with technology began. She was a school teacher and it was during her work as a teacher she realised the increasing importance of technology in education and in life in general. During the late 90s she was introduced to computers. She picked up the basics quickly. After retiring from work, she was called back to schools to present model lessons. This furthered her engagement with technology.

There was a constant realisation on her part that technology has become an inevitable part of our lives, be it personal or professional. She was also constantly encouraged by her children to adapt to technology more and more to make her life simpler. This led her to taking up the “Digital for Seniors” workshop at ANTS. She lives in South Delhi and would travel half way by car and half way by metro to attend the workshop.

Nirupama Sharma - ANTS
Nirupama Sharma at the ANTS “Digital for Seniors” workshop (Image courtesy: ANTS)

She says she is still learning how to use various apps and facilities like online banking. However, now if there is anything she is inquisitive about she just googles it! When I asked her, what keeps her going, she answered “Hum bigade hue hain” (We are spoilt). She explained that she has always been independent and that is precisely what keeps her going. She summed it up saying,  “To be able to live your own life, you have got to be independent.”

Nirupama aunty is living life on her own terms. She is inquisitive and she knows where to find her answers. She is independent and she knows how to keep this going. Keeping up with the changing technology has been one of her ways of doing this. She attributes independence as her strength and well, she is without a doubt  #StillGoingStrong.

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