Alex grannies get tech savvy as they learn how to use the internet and smartphones

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For this gogo, learning how to make video calls to see her friends was worth attending weekly tech lessons. (PHOTO: Bradley Chauke)
For this gogo, learning how to make video calls to see her friends was worth attending weekly tech lessons. (PHOTO: Bradley Chauke)

The internet can be a confusing maze of fake news, hackers and information overload, particularly for older people.

But now, the organisation goGOGOgo is teaching senior citizens how to be more tech savvy.

The NGO, based in Johannesburg's Alexandra township, was founded by Jane Simmonds to teach pensioners how to safely navigate the online world.

“During my research for my Master’s degree in public health, I became aware of how scared gogos were of the internet," Jane tells YOU.

"They saw it as a place where their IDs get stolen, or where they can be defrauded.

"They were also very scared of the internet because they thought it introduces children to porn."

Jane soon realised how important it was for grannies to understand that the internet can be an asset in a household. She set out to show them how children can benefit from it through learning and education.

In addition to the tech lessons, goGOGOgo also runs several health and education projects for the women.

The grandmothers meet twice a week at the Itlhokomeleng Association for the Aged and Disabled, where they're taught the basics of using the internet, emailing and some commonly used social media apps.

Many of those attending the tech lessons also collect food parcels from the association. In most cases, they're the sole providers for their families and are raising their grandchildren on only their state pension.

READ MORE | She may be 95 but this Durban granny doesn’t plan to put down her racket any time soon

elderly, internet, alex
The group of gogos meet weekly for their tech lessons. (PHOTO: Bradley Chauke)

Teaching the group of grannies and one grandfather has been an enriching experience for Jane and her fellow facilitators, Bradley Chauke and Siyasanga Mtayi.

“It’s been very inspiring to see the enthusiasm the grannies have for learning and for asking questions about technologies they haven’t used all that much before,”  Bradley says.

At first, the gogos got annoyed when the screens of the tablets they used went black, Siyasanga tells us.

"But they now know they must press a button on the side to unlock it and they do it all on their own now."

One of the biggest challenges the organisation faced was teaching the gogos how to swipe, according to Jane.

“Now they know how to swipe, they can use Google, YouTube, Bolt, and bank and shop online," she proudly says.

"They’ve learned a lot of skills.”

elderly, internet, alex
Gogos are taught everything from how to use emails to how to make video calls. (PHOTO: Jane Simmonds)

READ MORE | It's never too late to learn — this Nigerian granny is starting school at age 50

The lessons have come in handy for the grandmothers, especially during the Covid-19 lockdown when children were learning from home.

“Before starting the lessons, I didn’t know how the app worked and I'd miss important notices from the school," says gogo Joyce Cindi. "Now I can log in, check the notices and even follow up on my granddaughter’s homework.” 

For Florence Nawa, the lessons enabled her to say goodbye to a loved one when she and her friends got lost on the way to a funeral. “I used the navigation app on my phone to help us find our way," she says. "My friends couldn’t believe it. I’ve surprised a lot of people since starting these lessons."

goGOGOgo has already worked with two groups of grannies in the area. Once they've graduated, the organisation plans to give each one a tablet and data to take back home.

"The tablet can become an asset for them and their grandchildren to use in the household,” Jane says. "Now we want to scale up the project by teaching gogos in different parts of the country."

goGoGogo's top tips to teach your own gogo a thing or two about technology
  • Be patient, kind, and encouraging.
  • Teach at a pace that will help your gogo absorb and grasp the new information they’re receiving.
  • Combine similar topics in one lesson. For example, if you’re teaching them about email, advise them to keep their passwords safe and secret.
  • Remind them to store their email address and password in a safe and secure place.
  • Teach them about mobile data and how to switch it on and off, along with how to check the balance.
  • Check the website names that they’re on and teach them how to close each tab and the browser once they are done.
  • For WhatsApp, teach them to never answer texts or calls from numbers they do not know – at least not without getting help from their kids and grandkids first.

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